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Career Advice

The Joys, Sorrows and Summers Offs, The Pros and Cons of Becoming a School Nurse

There’s no question that nursing is a noble profession, although some cannot reconcile their desire to help others with all of the overtime, holidays and weekends many in the profession are forced to work. If you want to pursue a passion for nursing, but aren’t keen on the idea of working 24 hour shifts and remaining on-call every weekend, then working as a school nurse might be the solution.
This unique career allows you to help others, namely children, in a fun and scholastic environment. Before determining if this vocation is for you, learn about the educational requirements, salary, prospects and a few of the unavoidable facts of becoming school nurse. Some of this information might even surprise you!

Education Requirements

After completing your high school diploma or GED, it’s time to enroll in an accredited nursing program at a community college or university. After you earn either your Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, it’s customary to take and pass the state-administered RN licensing exam. The majority of school districts don’t require their nurses pass the School Nurse Certification Exam, but earning this recognition is always attractive to potential employers. To be eligible to take this test, nurses must possess a bachelor’s degree, obtain registered nurse certification and have three years of practical experience. A clinical nurse leader, which requires a Master’s of Science Degree in Nursing, is another highly sought after professional because of their risk management and quality improvement skills. An education degree, such as an online master’s degree in education, is not necessarily required to be a school nurse.

Experience, Salary and What to Expect

The amount of experience required to gain employment will vary depending on the employer and school district, although it’s not a bad idea to gain two to three years of practical experience before attempting to obtain work as a school nurse. Dealing with the medical needs of children on a daily basis is potentially stressful, which is where all of that real world training will definitely come in handy. As far as your salary, the majority of school districts pay a competitive wage, which hovers around $43,586 per year.
A person’s motivation for seeking employment as a school nurse varies, but there seems to be one overwhelming misconception: the job simply isn’t that challenging. As a school nurse, you might expect to encounter runny noses, the occasional vomiting child and, at the very worst, a broken bone or mild concussion. In actuality, school nurses work very closely with public health officials to ensure the safety and well-being of several hundreds or thousands of children. It’s your job to keep a watchful eye out for Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, or ensure a few sour tummies aren’t the beginnings of a Salmonella outbreak. Rest assured:  the day-to-day life of a school nurse is anything but predictable and can actually be rather exciting.

Pros and Cons

No school district, group of rowdy students or experience as a school nurse is ever the same, although there are some basic keystones you can expect no matter where you’re employed. Here are a few:

Pros

  • Summers off – Just imagine possessing the ability to step out of the building on the last day of school, knowing you don’t have to return for three glorious months. As a school nurse, this is your life.
  • No weekends or holidays – Sick people don’t miraculously become well, just because it’s Super Bowl Sunday or just in time for you to enjoy the fireworks on July 4th. As a school nurse, you’ll follow the district’s schedule, which means no work on the weekends and most major holidays.
  • Reduced stress – School nurses deal with stress, but it’s generally not the life and death situations that the majority of those employed at hospitals and nursing homes face on an almost daily basis.
  • No Overtime – Many nurses rely on their overtime to get by and this extra salary can add up very quickly. As a school nurse, you have no opportunity for overtime and must rely on a second job during the summer or part-time work to make ends meet.
  • Limited Advancement – There isn’t much of a hierarchy in the world of school nursing. There might be a supervisor that oversees the nursing staff, but this is generally about the extent of your opportunities for advancement.
  • Salary – Although a school nurse’s salary is generally competitive, as school budgets tighten, don’t expect to see many raises in your paycheck over the next few years.
  • No Overtime – Many nurses rely on their overtime to get by and this extra salary can add up very quickly. As a school nurse, you have no opportunity for overtime and must rely on a second job during the summer or part-time work to make ends meet.
  • Limited Advancement – There isn’t much of a hierarchy in the world of school nursing. There might be a supervisor that oversees the nursing staff, but this is generally about the extent of your opportunities for advancement.
  • Salary – Although a school nurse’s salary is generally competitive, as school budgets tighten, don’t expect to see many raises in your paycheck over the next few years.

At the end of the day, most school nurses and almost anyone in the nursing profession, will tell you their potential time off, pay and opportunities for advancement isn’t the main motivation behind their choice in vocation. It’s about helping others and as a school nurse, you’ll have the opportunity to comfort sick and scared children, which is the best reward of all.

This article was written by Jenny Bracken.  Jenny is currently taking nursing masters programs and hopes to complete her degree by next fall.

 

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