What does a School Nurse do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A school nurse is a registered nurse whose main focus is the health and well-being of the students and staff members in his jurisdiction. He is expected to address immediate student health issues concurrent with planning and implementing programs to promote good health. He is required to provide basic health and first aid services on a daily basis.

School nurses handle both physical and mental health issues.
School nurses handle both physical and mental health issues.

One of his primary goals is often to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, a common problem in school environments. He is required to be aware of impending epidemics and educate parents and students on practices that may prevent undue contamination. He may be responsible for only one location or for several schools in the district for which he works. The scope of his job generally is dictated by regulatory nursing association agency guidelines and the school district’s policies and procedures. These guidelines and policies can vary by country.

School nurses may contact parents when their child becomes ill.
School nurses may contact parents when their child becomes ill.

School nursing can be a demanding career, requiring much more than maintaining the daily health of students in some cases. A school nurse’s concerns may be expected to include the students’ daily and long-term academic achievement and how physical and mental health issues affect it. This may require communication with family members and professionals as well as with the student.

A school nurse may supply bandages for scraped knees.
A school nurse may supply bandages for scraped knees.

Typically, the school nurse supplies bandages for scraped knees and safely administers prescription and over-the-counter medication to students who have provided him with written authorization from their parents and family physicians to do so. If a student appears too ill to be in class, the school nurse contacts the student’s parents and arranges for transport home. Tact, empathy and good communication skills are helpful tools for a school nurse.

In the U.S., school nurses must be licensed, registered nurses.
In the U.S., school nurses must be licensed, registered nurses.

Physical, mental and psychological development are sometimes monitored by the school nurse. The same applies for physical symptoms and signs the nurse may perceive as becoming health problems. In some cases, the school nurse may engage the services of outside agencies to assist in properly treating students.

Someone who is a school nurse should keep up on their shots so they don't get sick.
Someone who is a school nurse should keep up on their shots so they don't get sick.

The school nurse relies on the school staff to help him recognize health and safety problems. These issues may involve equipment or environments that may pose dangers to students. He also relies on the staff to report concerns about individual students and, if necessary, assist in providing first aid.

A school nurse may monitor the physical development of her students.
A school nurse may monitor the physical development of her students.

The minimum requirements for this position vary by country. In the United States, one must be a licensed, registered nurse (RN). Many in this position also are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN). Additional licensing for school nursing may be required. Specific requirements for the position often vary, and school districts may impose more restrictions at their discretion.

A school nurse may help ensure that each child's immunization records are current.
A school nurse may help ensure that each child's immunization records are current.

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Discussion Comments


@Alisha: I would not recommend school nursing as a first position out of nursing school. I sub as a school nurse, but have been working as an RN since 1993. I think you really need to get some experience first. At most schools you are 'it' and if you don't know, nobody knows. There is nobody to ask -- no other nurse, no doctors.


@sunshined - I wouldn't spend too much time feeling guilty about it. At least with my kids, I know it can be a tricky situation sometimes. I never send them to school if they have a fever, but I have also received calls from the school nurse.

The first contact I had with our school nurse was when my oldest was in elementary school. I had not given them all of the current vaccination records, and the nurse contacted me to get that resolved.

I have never wanted to be a nurse, but think that if someone had a nursing degree, being a school nurse could be a rewarding job if you enjoy working with kids too. I imagine in some situations, it may be more difficult dealing with the parents than with the kids.


More than once I have received a call from the school nurse. Usually this is when I debated on sending my kids to school and they should have stayed home.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if they really are sick or if they are just trying to stay home for the day. There have been many times when I have sent them anyway, and I never get a call.

The few times when the school nurse has called, I have had to leave work and bring them home. By then, they are feeling pretty miserable. It has always been something minor like a sore throat or cold symptoms, but if they running a fever, they don't keep them at school.

I am sure this is one of the most common things that a school nurse has to monitor. I can understand why they shouldn't be at school if they have a fever, since they are probably contagious.

I always dread getting that call from the school nurse that I need to come and pick up my child from school. I always feel a little guilty and hope the nurse won't think I am a bad parent.


I grew up in a small, rural school district so we shared a school nurse with other schools within the district. It would have been much too expensive for each school to have their own nurse.

I knew the school nurse was there once in awhile, but I don't ever remember making a visit to the school nurse for any reason. I remember a classmate who had diabetes, and she would have to visit the nurse frequently.

My kids go to a large school and there is a nurse on duty there all the time. With so many kids, I think the nurse stays busy all day long. They like to monitor things pretty closely, and if someone has to take medications, you need to make sure the nurse is informed.


When my friend was looking for a school nurse job in our area, there were never very many openings. It seems like these jobs are in high demand for nurses, and there isn't much turnover. At least that is what she was finding in our area.

She had worked as a nurse for many years, but was looking for something with hours that were better. Since she was a single mom, she needed to work during the day so she could be home during the evening and weekends with her kids.

While working as a school nurse would have its challenges, I think the hours would be very attractive for someone with a family. That is probably why any time a school nurse job became available they didn't stay open for very long.


I just finished nursing school and I'm considering applying for a school nurse job. Nursing is a very satisfying career and I'm sure I'll be happy no matter where I work. But I also love children and enjoy interacting and caring for them. I think it would be fun to work as a nurse at a school.

I know that a school nurse job has its difficulties too. There are many students and quite a few will need the attention and care of the nurse daily. It's not like a hospital environment where there are multiple nurses to share the workload. At school, it's just you and we all know how often kids tend to get sick, especially in winter.

I still think that the satisfaction of the job will outweigh the difficulties. But I would love to hear more about it if there are any school nurses here. What do you think is the best part and the worst part of being a school nurse?

@burcinc-- Your comment brought back some memories! I didn't appreciate the school nurse very much either, not until I was in high school and needed her help.

In high school, my family was going through financial trouble. We were in a really bad situation and I was working part time at a restaurant. One day at work, I burned myself and I didn't go to the hospital for treatment because I didn't have health insurance.

The only medical care I received was from the school nurse. Someone had told her about my burn and she called me to her office. She cleaned my burn and bandaged it. She also gave me extra supplies and bandages and showed me how to clean and care for my burn at home.

I can't even describe how grateful I was for her help. I feel like crying just thinking about it now. I'm so glad that we have nurses at schools. Health comes first and it's a great relief to know that someone will always be there to look over us if we need medical care at school.


I remember in primary school, we always knew who was sick because their name would be announced via the speakers to go and visit the school nurse. That meant that it was time for their medicine.

I didn't see the school nurse very often during my schooling. I went a couple of times when I didn't feel good. She would ask me how I feel and check my temperature to make sure I wasn't sick. I was never one of the lucky ones who were excused by the nurse to go home!

Aside from this, we saw the nurse whenever there was a school-wide control for infectious diseases or lice. Our nurse also helped other nurses that came to visit from the hospital when we needed to get vaccinated. In general, the nurse's office was not a place you really wanted to visit.

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