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School Nurses - Careers in Nursing

The duties, qualifications, and qualities required to become a School Nurse.
Written on 2/7/14

Being a School Nurse can be just as demanding as working in a traditional hospital, with the added challenge of dealing with dozens or even hundreds of younger patients. What does a school nurses do - and what personal qualities are best suited to the role?

School Nurse duties

A School Nurse works with teachers, parents and pupils and, for a lot of families, acts as a first port of call for medical support. School nurses can find themselves working with children of a variety of ages, from those as young as 4 or 5 - to 18 years old. Given that range, the nature of the medical challenges and complaints school nurses face can be incredibly diverse. Broadly speaking, school nurses work to promote health and well-being among pupils, but their wider duties include:

  • raising awareness of issues like poor nutrition, drug abuse and smoking
  • addressing students' individual medical enquiries
  • contributing to social education in areas like sex education and hygiene
  • administering immunisations and vaccinations and other clinical procedures
  • supporting teachers and parents with medical training and advice
  • providing care for students with on-going medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy

Many areas of a school nurse's role require high levels of sensitivity and discretion, especially those in which a child's mental or sexual health is concerned. In some cases, school nurses are required to work very closely with social services or other governmental agencies - and form a crucial component in the system put in place to protect children.

How to become a School Nurse

All UK nurses must complete a university-level nursing degree before they can become registered. Once registered, graduates can apply directly to become a school nurse but many educational institutions require a period of professional experience (usually at least 2 years) - or an additional post-graduate qualification leading to registration as a Specialist Public Health Nurse. Work experience in areas involving children - and the unique challenges they present - is always an advantage when applying for school nursing positions.

Employment opportunities for school nurses are available across the country, with positions in both the public and private sectors. School nurses may find employment in numerous areas, including positions with local health authorities, NHS care providers or directly, through a school itself. School nurses can travel a wide career path to senior positions, including community-level appointments or even a move into policy-making.

Qualities required

School nurses, like any employees working with children, need to be responsible, resourceful and perceptive. Communication skills are essential - young children may not be able to articulate the exact nature of medical complaints and nurses must be able to recognize signs and symptoms without verbal prompts. Conversely, older children may be unwilling to be forthcoming or even anxious about the nature of their complaint - nurses must identify the best way approach and resolve each unique situation.

No two school nursing position are ever the same but, whatever the nature of the educational environment, nurses can expect a high level of job satisfaction as they make a positive difference to the lives of the families and hundreds of children around them.