Careers: School Nurse

If you are pursuing a nursing degree, consider becoming a school nurse to provide needed medical care to students and earn a decent living.

School nurses provide a much-needed service to our country's public and private elementary and secondary schools. They check kids for various chronic or acute conditions, such as asthma or pneumonia, which low-income children might not otherwise be evaluated for.

If you are thinking about entering the medical field for a career, you may want to consider becoming a school nurse for several reasons. The pay can be good, a nurse's hours are flexible, and summers are free unless you choose to undertake additional nursing work during those months. If you are employed by a school system, your benefits can be attractive as well. But if you work for a nursing agency, you will get the advantage of temporary job assignments that will offer new clients periodically, so that you are unlikely to become bored with your job. Some nurses even make their own schedules, choosing which days or hours each week they want to work on some if not all assignments.

A school nurse provides meaningful services to the school systems for which she works. On a typical day she might check elementary-age students for head lice, evaluate suspicious coughs for contagious viral syndromes that are making the rounds, and treat a random scraped knee or pinched finger. At the high school level, a school nurse could help a girl who is struggling with difficult menstrual symptoms or treat an athlete's sprained shoulder or twisted ankle. By law a school nurse must report signs or symptoms of a student's physical or emotional abuse to local authorities for further investigation.

Working in a school environment provides the opportunity of helping students of all ages stay healthy or get well. You will dispense advice as well as medicine, and perhaps find yourself in a teaching role for health-related issues or concerns.

The role of a school nurse may extend beyond the classroom. You may be asked to provide teaching demonstrations at a school board meeting or at the local library. If you have developed a specialty, such as communicable diseases among elementary students, you might be invited to speak at a community forum or a school health conference. Your expertise adds an important component to the well being of students and the competent operation of a school system.

During the summers when you are not working within a school system, you might work as a camp nurse. Or you could visit disabled children at home. You may even be able to assist with home-schooled children, some of who have schedules that vary a little bit from public school students. You can also take off some time to relax, travel, enjoy your family, or prepare for the following year by upgrading your skills.

Becoming a school nurse means that you may become part of a school retirement system, such as SERS (State Employees Retirement System) or PERS (Public Employees Retirement System). As a member you may be entitled to benefits like dental or vision care, disability pay, and retirement income.

Check into this career option by inquiring at your local college placement office or with a hospital staffing office near you.

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