You see it in all the movies, or you may have even done it yourself. You walk down to the school nurse’s office, saying you’re very sick. You sit on her little cot and wait for your mom to come pick you up, then spend the day watching TV.
Maybe you did it to get out of a test or away from a bully, or maybe you were really sick. But the reality is, everyone at one point or another needs school nursing. Nurses play an absolutely critical role in hospitals, giving patient care and specific medical care that others don’t or can’t provide.
The same is true in schools.
Children with unmet health needs have a difficult time performing well in school and furthering their education. School nursing helps ensure kids are healthy and enhance their educational experiences by making sure their needs are met.
From promoting health programs to giving individual attention to students and identifying their needs, school nurses have a great deal of influence. They don’t just influence students, but the community as a whole as they encourage programs and health standards to parents and entire families.
School nurses shouldn’t be seen as a cost to a district, but rather as an investment in children and their education.
Discover the ways that school nurses directly influence education for hundreds of students around the country.
School nurses act as advocates for preventative care, and help schools run testing and programs to increase care for children.
From eye charts to scoliosis testing, research shows that school nurses help with medical prevention by regularly testing for and identifying issues that students may be facing. During critical growing years for kids, it’s vital to have someone regularly looking out for any issues. Eye tests, scoliosis tests, hearing tests, and more can be crucial for growing children.
As school nurses perform these tests they are able to find and help resolve issues, without kids needing to wait for a yearly doctor check-up or until their parent notices something is wrong, and takes them into the doctor. These tests help kids get another set of medically-trained eyes to identify issues.
School nurses can also help explain issues to parents in a way that makes them feel confident in their ability to help. From identifying the right medical specialist to help with the problem, to giving specific tools to help students thrive, providers are there for parents as much as they are for students.
Many schools require vaccinations for students to attend. Nursing at the school level can help educate parents and families about the benefits of vaccines. Some schools even have providers who are authorized to give vaccinations for children, helping with the prevention of deadly diseases.
Studies are now showing that older students can also get information about vaccines from school nurses, and may opt to get vaccinations that can help them stay healthy.
Advocating and education about vaccines isn’t just good for one individual child; the school and community as a whole benefit when children are vaccinated. From flu vaccines to crucial measles vaccines, students who receive shots help prevent the spread of illnesses to other students and families.
Many parents need to bring younger children into schools for volunteer, pick ups, etc. Keeping these younger children safe when they visit the school by having vaccinated students keeps the community at large safe.
For older students, nursing experts in schools can have a huge impact when it comes to teaching about substance use of things like drugs and alcohol, according to studies. Parents of teenagers often teach about the principles and problems of drugs and alcohol, but many teenagers need to hear that information from someone else, who isn’t their parent. When they hear this information from other adults they trust, they are more likely to believe it.
Nursing experts provide credibility and have the medical background to help students truly understand the specific implications of drugs and alcohol. This can help decrease underage drinking and the use of illegal drugs in the community.
Registered nurses in schools also provide crucial mental health guidance to students of all ages. While schools often have guidance counselors and other adults that can address mental health care, RNs can be a crucial addition in helping students with mental health services.
Health advocates can help students be more confident and encourage them toward personal and academic success. From helping them understand basic healthy habits like good sleep and nutrition that will help them perform better, to basic encouragement as another trusted adult in their lives, the role of the school nurse is vital.
Students and especially teenage students need reassurance and positive talk from the adults in their lives. Missing this can cause them to sink into depression or contribute to negative emotions and a negative view about themselves, and the world. RNs add a voice of encouragement that students need to hear as they grow.
School nurses are perfectly positioned to be able to help students that are coming from broken or chaotic family situations. Working with students that come to find advice is a huge opportunity for school nurses to help them evaluate options, find coping strategies, and more.
School nurses can act as a sounding board for these children, and if things are extremely bad, they can be the ones to offer a referral other professionals and mental health providers. Children who know they have an ally in a school nurse are more confident that they can handle their situation. Having an adult who understands where they are coming from can be monumental for them. School nurses can also work with teachers to help them understand where the student is coming from, and can even work with families on occasion to help present positive solutions to problems.
School nurses are around their students all day, and because of this, can be the first to spot signs of mental illness within children. As they are watching out for these signs, they often can help students sooner. Licensed nurses also take courses that help train them to recognize signs of mental illness in students in order to recommend further professional medical attention.
Identifying and addressing mental illness in students will help them get medical attention, coping strategies, and professional help that they need to continue to thrive. Trained nurses are a critical step in this treatment plan; sometimes students will be struggling at school and their parents have no idea, because they act differently at home. School nurses can be a determining factor if students showing signs of mental health issues will be noticed, and helped.
Trained nurses are prepared to help students deal with traumatic crisis situations that they may face in their school or community.
Something as horrific as a school shooting is certain to be traumatic for students. Research shows that school nurses can look into specific medical needs of these students, help students identify their feelings, and work with them on mental health issues and coping strategies. Students often need other adults to talk to beyond their parents, who help them feel heard and understood. Having trained professionals who understand mental and physical health can be crucial after something as traumatic as a school shooting.
The death of a classmate can send shockwaves through an entire school. School nurses are there and often ready to help students grieve and move past the depression or anxiety they may feel after this traumatic experience. Studies prove that specific medical explanations sometimes help people better understand death, and be able to move past it. Licensed nurses also have training on grief counseling and mental health awareness to help them be prepared to assist students in any way after a trauma.
School nurses are a key element in the education system, though they are often overlooked. Schools that invest in student nurses see better outcomes for their students, as they have someone to reach out to, and who is looking out for them and their health.