What is a School Nurse?

A school nurse performs an important role in keeping school children (and sometimes school staff members and educators) safe while attending school or participating in school activities.

The Job Description & Duties of a School Nurse

A school nurse is an integral part of the safe operation of a school during times of emergency and non-emergency scenarios. A school nurse’s daily responsibilities vary but often include the following duties –

  • Managing health care initiatives in the school.
  • Managing minor daily health issues for students and staff, as needed.
  • Performing hearing and vision screenings for students, as directed by health officials.
  • Storing and Dispensing prescription medicine to students during school hours.
  • Teaching health/nutrition classes to students that is a part of the state’s preset curriculum.
  • Managing immunization records for students, among other professional duties.

If you have a strong interest and wish to become a school nurse, it is likely you have spent time finding the answers to the following questions –

  • What are the requirements to be a school nurse?
  • Do the qualifications for a school nurse differ by state or locality?
  • How to become a certified school nurse in the jurisdiction in which you intend to practice?
  • What are the steps and how to get school nurse certification before applying for a school nurse job?
  • Are there special requirements to become a school nurse?

The reality is that to become a school nurse, one must obtain their Registered Nurse’s license – and most schools require that the RN hold a BSN – a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, not simply a two-year academic degree. Additionally, a school nurse must complete clinical rounds and a practicum prior to graduation.

School Nurse Certification & Education Requirements

Each state sets forth the school nurse certification requirements, so the criteria that establishes the for certification for school nurses will vary by state. In accordance with the NBCSN – the National Board of School Nurses, school nursing certification minimum requirements include, but are not limited by the following –

  • Obtain a baccalaureate level degree (or higher) in the nursing or health-related field.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam to obtain a Registered Nurse license.
  • Obtain experience in a school health environment for a minimal of 1,000 clinical hours during the three-years before taking the NBCSN certification test.

Most schools hire registered nurses to fill a school nursing position with a candidate who meets the school district’s nurse certification requirements.

In addition, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) maintains chapters in each state of affiliate members who ensure that those seeking credentials as a school nurse meet the association’s school nursing certification criteria.

The Code of Ethics and the NASN School Nurse Certification

Part of earning a NASN school nursing certification includes a commitment to follow the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics – which was adopted in 2015.  Certification for school nurses requires the compliance to this ethical code, plus adherence to the medical objectives of excellence, integrity, leadership, diversity, scholarship, and diversity.

School Nurse Salary

The average salary for a school nurse at the end of 2019 was approximately $50,400 per year (Salary.com). Payscale.com reveals that the average salary of a school nurse to be $46,350, The average salary of a school nurse falls within a range of salaries that depends on –

  • Experience.
  • Certifications.
  • Education, to name a few.

After reviewing this percentile range for a school nurse salary, it is possible to discern –

  • How much do school nurses make at the upper range of the school nurse salary scale? – about $75K.
  • Would a school nurse salary include some sign-on bonus?
  • How much do school nurses make at an entry-level position? – about $30-35K.
  • How much does a school nurse make at the low end of the salary for a school nurse range?
  • What is the average salary for a school nurse when one considers the entire compensation package?

The reality is the salary for a school nurse generally includes some form of a retirement/pension plan, paid sick time, health/disability/dental/vision insurance, and often, a tuition reimbursement option.

  • How much does a school nurse make on the east coast compared to the nurse salaries on the west coast, or the central portion of the United States

According to salary.com, a school nurse’s salary – when compared to the national average of all school nurses – is as follows –

  • San Francisco, CA – 25+% higher than the national average of a school nurse salary and compensation package.
  • New York, NY – 21% higher than the national average of a school nurse salary and compensation package.
  • Chicago, IL – 6% higher than the national average of a school nurse salary and compensation package.

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