Most schools, but not all, have a school nurse. The school nurse’s job is a busy one filled with illness, injury, mental health issues and families needing help. It’s not just “putting on Band-Aids,” as many people think.
A study stated that 60% of U.S. schools do not have a full-time nurse. To be honest, as a parent, I had no idea what a school nurse did - until I became one and it opened my eyes.
I work at Pine River-Backus Schools and I am a registered nurse with 34 years of experience in pediatric, emergency room, infant and adult care. My hospital work was busy, but nothing like my current job at the school.
A school nurse takes care of students and staff who have a variety of illnesses such as strep throat, stomach flu and influenza. We also monitor communicable diseases like chickenpox and measles and report any outbreaks in our school with the Minnesota Department of Health.
We are required to report on all immunizations, in the school and for students who are homeschooled, to the Department of Health every year. We read articles and studies to try to stay current on new treatments, illnesses and changes in healthcare.
There are children with chronic diseases and illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, seizures and allergies, to name a few, that need specialized health plans, emergency plans and treatment plans. Some of these students we need to see multiple times a day so they can participate in school.
Many students need medications in school for their health problems or just need medication for a headache. We keep track of those and call parents when refills are needed.
We perform screenings on students like hearing and vision and early childhood health for preschool age children. Some school nurses teach classes for students about health and growing up. There are classes and teaching for adults about Epi-Pen usage, CPR, first aid, emergency care, seizure care, and how to handle medication and emergencies on field trips.
We advise and educate parents on the care of their child during illness or when the child has a chronic condition. We maintain emergency equipment, supplies and medication that are used in the school.
As part of the school administration, school nurses are an important part of groups such as crisis teams, emergency response teams and wellness committees. There are meetings we attend for summer school, special education and county services. School nurses meet with other nurses in the region to discuss topics that are important to themselves, their students and the community.
We meet with parents and teachers to address the needs of students with special needs and we are responsible for billing and paperwork that goes along with their care.
It is a big job. At Pine River-Backus School, I see nearly 10,000 students, in my office, in a nine-month school year. I help students with everything from illness, chronic disease issues, mental and emotional health problems, small and severe injury, fixing glasses, supplying dry clothes, finding winter gear and teaching.
Our school is fortunate to be able to have a full-time nurse when some other schools do not.