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How to Become a School Nurse — Requirements & Other Info

a hired nurse teaching how to become a school nurse in front of a chalkbord

School nurses are vital members of the community that take care of children and adults in many educational settings. They’re responsible for managing the health of the students who attend their institutions.  The ways how to become a school nurse have changed over the years.  Here is what that looks like today:

The field of nursing is looking for individuals who have a strong desire to advocate for the health, well-being, and overall success of all students. 

A robust school nursing program is essential for students to receive a quality education and carve the best possible path for their futures. Physical and mental well-being is the only way for students to thrive in an educational setting. Young students, especially, need someone dedicated to advocating for their health. 

This career guide covers some of the major responsibilities of this profession, how to become a school nurse, and some of the other requirements to be a school nurse. All of the information here will help anyone looking to start a career in this field.

What Is a School Nurse?

A school nurse works with children, adolescents, and even adults in an educational setting. They are responsible for assessing the health of students and determining if their patients require a higher level of care. Nurses help with any illness or injury sustained or experienced by students while on campus. 

Duties are determined by the state in line with the requirements to be a school nurse. Some specific duties can include but are not limited to:

  • Medication administration
  • Glucose monitoring
  • Care for wounds of injured students
  • Assess students with mental health issues
  • Respond to emergencies and perform CPR or other life-saving methods if necessary
  • Contact parents or emergency responders if needed
  • Maintain files of student health records
  • Oversee yearly health screenings
  • Oversee annual sports screenings
  • Monitor and adhere to school infection control standards
  • Record and submit documentation of necessary vaccination records required by the state
  • Provide resources for students and families to outside health resources

Defining this profession might be simple enough, but learning how to become a school nurse and understanding the responsibility of the job can be tough. These professionals are often the unsung heroes of the community. 

Where Can a School Nurse Work?

School nurses primarily work in educational settings. However, they can work in a variety of places as registered nurses (RNs). They are commonly employed in public or private elementary, middle, and high schools. Colleges and universities also employ nurses to offer health services and advocacy programs for adult students on campus.

Sometimes, a school nurse can find work at a vocational school or juvenile correction facility. But the workplace possibilities continue to expand. Here is a list of additional places you can find these professionals:

  • Alternative schools
  • Department of Health
  • Hospitals
  • Preschools
  • Overseas military bases
  • Summer camps

In general, you can find a school nurse working anywhere that demands an RN be present to assist children or adults in case of an injury or illness. 

Benefits for a School Nurse

This field offers some increase in earning potential depending on the experience and education of each individual. Unfortunately, overtime opportunities are not supported by these contracts, as most are yearly salaried positions. While most institutions don’t provide overtime pay for this kind of position, they do provide stable jobs with definite hours. 

Most of these professionals receive similar benefits regardless of the setting they work in. The actual benefits that individual RNs will receive will depend on the place of employment. In general, an RN can expect the following benefits:

  • Availability to attend nursing conferences
  • Discounts
  • CEU reimbursement
  • Certification reimbursement
  • Dental, health, and vision insurance
  • Family Leave of Absence (FMLA)
  • Professional Organization reimbursement
  • Maternity leave
  • Retirement plan options
  • Tuition reimbursement

Salary for positions varies from job to job. Make sure to do your research and verify the pay scale and benefits available for each position you apply for. 

How to Become a School Nurse

To become an RN and work in an educational setting, you must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited university. An associate’s degree is not enough for any graduate to qualify for employment as an RN in an educational setting. 

After earning their BSN, a graduate must apply for their state’s board of nurses. The board will decide eligibility to take the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). This test is a nationwide exam for the licensing of nurses in the United States, Canada, and Australia. 

The NCLEX is proctored and graded by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Passing this exam is required before professionals can become licensed in their state of practice. Each state will have its own requirements to be an RN in an educational setting.

Many institutions prefer professionals who have clinical experience before applying to work in the district, but the educational requirements depend on the state of the institution. Many RNs have a Master’s in Science (MSN) or a Master’s in Education to meet a wide variance of state requirements to be a school nurse. 

Pre-employment requirements can include:

  • Having a school nurse certificate issued by the state
  • Having more than the 26 credits required for a standard BSN
  • Possessing an RN license and a bachelor’s degree
  • A nurse supervisor must possess an RN license and a master’s degree

Some states will require additional certification or licensing beyond an RN license. You can find specifications on how to become a school nurse in your state by contacting the state’s affiliate from the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). 

States that require a credential in school nursing have students take the certification exam during the MSN program. Becoming a supervisor typically requires professionals to also have an MSN. This program will require additional study in subjects such as:

  • Adolescent healthcare
  • Community mental health
  • Introduction to Education: Theory and Practice
  • Primary health care of the young family
  • Theory and Practice in School Nursing

Being familiar with your state’s requirements for how to become a school nurse when you start your degree will be most beneficial for you. Having the proper information will keep you on track to completing all necessary schooling and completing essential certifications. 

Certifications for School Nurses

Knowing the job requirements to be a school nurse is the first step in applying for a job. Obtaining the appropriate certificate may be required by some institutions before applying for the job, while other institutions may require professionals to earn the certificate after they become employees.

Your state may require you to obtain certification from the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN) before you can apply for jobs in this field. The School Nurse Certification Exam is a computerized exam with 200 questions and a four-hour completion time limit. Subjects found in the exam include:

  • Health Appraisal
  • Health Problems and Nursing Management
  • Health Promotion and Disease Management
  • Special Health Issues
  • Professional Issues

You must apply to take the exam 30 days before the exam date. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the next cycle to come around. Exams are only held three times a year with a two-week window for testing, so it’s essential to stay on top of the scheduling. The examination is currently $360.00, and some places of employment will reimburse employees if the exam is required to fulfill active job roles. 

The NBCSN states that before you can be eligible to take the School Nurse Certification Exam, you must: 

  • Complete a minimum of 1,000 credit hours of clinical experience or have three years of full-time academic experience (this approximately equates to the number of hours a school nurse works in a year if working for 6 hours a day)
  • Have a current RN license and bachelor’s degree in nursing or higher OR
  • Have a bachelor’s degree in another health-related field relevant to school nursing and six credits in the subjects of:
    • Management of primary health care problems among children and adolescents
    • Health assessment of children and adolescents
    • Public health OR
    • Community health OR
    • Epidemiology

The NCSN exam certification is valid for five years after passing. Nurses must get decertified, but recertification requirements differ from the original certification process. Recertification will depend on the number of clinical practice hours of each professional.

Nurses must maintain a current RN license and a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in school nursing within five full years. Professionals must have completed 750 of those 2,000 hours within the last three years. 

These certifications for becoming a school nurse require many hours of studying and remembering dates of availability. Plan out your testing schedule as soon as possible to guarantee you meet all the requirements on time and are ready to pass your exams. 

Closing – How to Become a School nurse with the right job 

You can find jobs that match your level of education and experience all over the country. Local and even travel school nurse jobs can be found easily online with information about what specific positions have to offer. You can find opportunities that best fit your needs for a fulfilling career. 

The journey to becoming a school nurse might create a long checklist of certifications that will take several years to accomplish. All of these steps required to become a nurse are necessary to create the strongest health care professionals in the field. 

The exams and clinical hours will be worth it for an admirable career where you get to take care of the community.