Being A School Nurse Practitioner

What Is A School Nurse Practitioner?

A school nurse practitioner is a nurse who provides care to children and young adults at their school or college. As nursing specialties go, this one is slightly less intensive than most others, as it usually involves dealing with minor injuries and illnesses with a greater focus on overall well being rather than on emergency medical situations. Nurses who prefer to work under less pressure and who also enjoy working with young people are ideally suited for this line of work.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

The following are usually considered to be the main duties of a school nurse practitioner:

  • In addition to simply caring for individual children and students, school nurse practitioners are also responsible for developing an overarching health care plan for the entire institution.
  • School nurse practitioners are responsible for ensuring that all other school staff are trained in dealing with common medical situations that may arise, such as first aid and first response skills, as well as how to deal with Epilepsy and asthma.
  • They also tend to have an active role in educating students and teachers on different healthcare issues.
  • School nurse practitioners do not only deal with physical ailments but are also responsible for providing help and support to any students who are suffering from mental health problems, such as depression or substance abuse disorders.
  • A school nurse practitioner must also work closely with other Community Groups and Social Workers and refer the students under her care if and when necessary.
  • Nutrition and exercise are closely linked to the health status of children, and it is therefore the school nurse practitioner’s job to educate parents and students on this aspect of their well being.
  • Last but not least, the school nurse practitioner is responsible for testing hearing and eyesight and monitoring the weight and height of the children under her care.

Employment

School nurse practitioners are either employed full-time at a school, or are required to serve a number of schools in a specified geographic location. In cases where the nurse is a full-time employee, they will work out of an office within the school and be available at all times during the school day. If, on the other hand, they are required to serve a number of different schools, their visits will be intermittent (although they could follow a set schedule). Because school nurses tend to keep to school hours, they have more free time and a more convenient lifestyle than many other nursing professionals. In addition, depending on the school that they work in, they stand a higher chance of being employed in a well ventilated and lighted facility.School Nurse Practitioner

School Nurse Practitioner Requirements

There are a number of requirements that you need to meet in order to become a school nurse practitioner, but the main ones are as follows:

  • You must have completed an RN training program and hold an RN license
  • You must have a pediatric nurse qualification

Pediatric nurse practitioners are nurses who are specifically trained to care for the needs of babies, children and adolescents, which is why this qualification is essential for working in a school or college. Young people and children have different medical needs and are at risk for different medical conditions than adults or geriatrics, so it is essential that, before applying for positions in a school, that you have the necessary knowledge and qualifications for becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Personality Traits

Certain personality traits will make your job as a school nurse practitioner substantially easier:

  • You need to have well-developed communication skills in order to effectively communicate with children as well as with adults
  • You must have the ability to observe accurately and make decisions accordingly as mistakes can often be serious and even life-threatening when it comes to children
  • You must be able to work with patients who are sometimes reluctant to cooperate, especially if you are working with teenagers in a high school
  • You must be willing to work with a team as you will need to interact with other school employees as well as outside agencies
  • You must be able to supervise others
  • You must be emotionally stable and have a sympathetic disposition towards children

Educational Requirements

The educational path to becoming a school nurse practitioner is a fairly lengthy one as you are required to first earn a pediatric nurse practitioner qualification:

  • Firstly you need to become a qualified Registered Nurse and receive several years of experience as one, preferably working with children in, for example, a pediatric ward.
  • These programs are usually about two years in duration and earn you a Master’s Degree in Nursing.
  • Once you have completed the pediatric nursing program, you must apply for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) certification exam and licensure in the state in which you wish to practice.

RN programs can vary in length from about 2 years to 4 years, depending on the qualification you pursue. By adding the pediatric nurse practitioner qualification you will need to devote 4 to 6 years of your life in total to meeting the educational requirements for this specialty.

Licensure

The only license that you really need in order to become a school nurse practitioner is your RN license. This process involves enrolling in an accredited RN training program. These programs can take 2 to 4 years to complete, depending on the type of qualification you plan to earn. A bachelor’s program will take 4 years to complete and provide you with more career advancement options than an associate’s degree or a diploma. However, an associate’s degree can take as a little as 2 years to complete while a diploma will take about 3 years. Completing a program and meeting all of the theory and clinical course requirements will make you eligible to apply for licensure with your State Board of Nursing. Once the board confirms that you meet the requirements for becoming licensed, you can set a date to write the NCLEX-RN, which is the national licensing exam for registered nurses in the US. Pearson VUE administers the exam for a fee of $200. Your results will be passed on to your State Board of Nursing. If you pass satisfactorily, you will receive licensure. Licensure must be renewed regularly, although the specific time periods and requirements for achieving this may differ depending on the state in which you are licensed in.

How To Become A School Nurse Practitioner

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

It is interesting to note that, because you need to hold a pediatric nurse practitioner qualification in order to be a school nurse practitioner, there is plenty of room for advancement in this line of work. The bottom line is that you will not be limited to working in schools and you will have the opportunity to branch out and expand your knowledge in the area of pediatric nursing specifically, if that is what you choose to do.
Continuing education credits with a focus on pediatric care will stand you in good stead and improve your career advancement opportunities in this line of work.

Source An Accredited Education Program

It is important that the school through which you complete your pediatric nurse practitioner qualification is accredited. If it is not accredited, you may find yourself in a situation where the program that you invested so much time and money in is worth nothing. Some examples of schools you could consider attending are:

The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Avenue Northeast
Washington, DC 20064
202-319-5000
cua.edu

University of California at San Francisco
400 Parnassus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94122
415-476-2342
ucsf.edu

University of Virginia
202 Jeanette Lancaster Way
Charlottesville, VA 22903
434-924-0141
virginia.edu

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

As you have already noted, in order to be a school nurse practitioner you must hold a pediatric nurse practitioner qualification. This is, essentially, a master’s degree. However, earning an associate’s degree is a very useful first step in the process as this will allow you to receive an RN license, a requirement for entering a pediatric nurse practitioner program. Begin the process by noting all of the schools in your area offering associate’s degrees in nursing. Create a shortlist of the options that are most closely aligned with your personal needs. Apply for at least 3 different schools in order to improve your chances of being accepted. Each school will have its own application procedures that you should take careful note of. Choose the best school from among those that accept you and enroll. Completing the program will earn you your associate’s degree.

Obtain Your Licensure

In order to be a school nurse practitioner you must, in addition to earning your RN license, become certified by the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), which is affiliated with the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBSCN). This process involves taking and passing the NBSCN national school nurse certification examination. There are a large number of schools that offer programs that will prepare you for this. A comprehensive list can be found at http://www.education-online-search.com/programs/nursing_school/school_nurse_certificate_programs, although you need to ensure for yourself that these schools are appropriately accredited.

Online/Distance Education Programs

Because you need to complete a certain amount of clinical hands-on training for any nursing qualification, it is simply not possible to complete a qualification such as this entirely online. It is possible to complete the theory portion in this manner, and this can certainly alleviate the burden placed on your shoulders, but your clinical work must always be completed in a face-to-face situation. When selecting online schools, choose one that also has a brick-and-mortar presence as well as a good track record. Schools that provide resources through which to complete your clinical training should also be prioritized.

Job Outlook

Some nurses worry about where their money will come from during vacation time if they do choose to pursue a career as a school nurse practitioner. Because of your pediatric qualification it is possible for you to seek temporary positions as a pediatric nurse practitioner during these time periods. This also implies that you could leave school nursing altogether if you chose to do so. School nurses are also on the front lines of healthcare in that they have a great deal of interaction with the community. This also implies that there is potential for nurses with this qualification to branch out into community nursing should they be interested in doing so.
Job stability is always guaranteed in the health care industry as this is the only industry that stays strong no matter what. In addition, it is the industry that is growing at a faster rate than any other.

Earnings

School nurses, with their pediatric nurse qualifications, are eligible to earn the following:

  • Average Salary = $61,676 – $94,383
  • Bonus = $0.00 – $7,465
  • Profit Sharing = $507 – $19,727
  • Total Pay = $63,996 – $102,228

School nurses are not limited to working in schools, and it is therefore interesting to note what other pay options a nurse with this specialty may have:

  • In Healthcare you could earn about $58,819 – $94,359 an hour with this qualification
  • In a Pediatric Office you could earn about $59,254 – $94,223 an hour with this qualification
  • In a Hospital you could earn about $59,905 – $96,324 an hour with this qualification
  • In a Medical Office you could earn about $57,726 – $93,395 an hour with this qualification
  • In the Medical Services you could earn about $58,571 – $95,578 an hour with this qualification

The educational path to becoming a school nurse practitioner is fairly lengthy, but the career and salary opportunities that characterize this specialty make it a worthy option to consider. The primary qualification is that you have a genuine love for children and a passionate interest in their well being.

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