The Pros and Cons of Being a School Nurse

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 9, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nursing is a career that offers a wide variety of opportunities and work environments, like working in a hospital, a private home or a school. A school nurse is one such role that oversees the medical needs of students at a public or private school. Understanding the pros and cons of being a school nurse can help you decide if this is an ideal career path for you. In this article, we discuss what a school nurse does and examine some of the pros and cons of this profession.

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What is a school nurse?

A school nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who provides health care services to students in an educational facility. They may take care of students who feel sick or are injured. They often oversee the immunization records of the student body and follow up to ensure all children are properly immunized and compliant with state laws. School nurses might care for children with health conditions such as diabetes or asthma.

They might perform standard health assessments, such as scoliosis examinations or vision and hearing screenings. They ensure that all school board policies about health and safety regulations meet legal guidelines and are responsible for ensuring medication procedures for students at school follow state laws. School nurses also might maintain documentation regarding students' medical care and health records.

Related: How To Become a School Nurse

Pros of being a school nurse

Here are some of the potential benefits of being a school nurse:

Working hours

The working hours of a school nurse can be very convenient for some. Nurses typically work a set schedule and work only during school hours, which is often from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. There usually aren't any night, weekend or overtime shifts, and the schedule is the same throughout the school year.

Time off

School nurses get a considerable amount of time off and generally work nine months out of the year. They get weekends, summers and holidays off, plus extended time off for winter and spring breaks. School nurses usually receive the same amount of paid sick days as the school staff and may also get snow days, whereas nurses in other settings may not.

Employee benefits

Many school nurses work under the same contracts as the teachers in the school district. This can provide them with excellent employee benefits, including health care and sick pay, among other perks. They may also be able to participate in the same retirement plan as the teachers.

In-demand profession

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 9% by 2030. Finding a position as a school nurse may be easier in some locations than finding a position as a nurse in a hospital. Because a school nurse is an RN, they also can have many alternative job opportunities available to them from which to choose.

Related: What Jobs Are Always in High Demand?

Positively impact others through relationships

School nurses can make a significant difference in students' lives and build meaningful relationships. Many get to watch their students grow and develop over several years. They can also have many positive interactions with children as they support and assist them with diabetes or other medical conditions. They can also develop positive influential relationships with parents and staff.

Working independently

A school nurse usually has a high level of autonomy and many of them have their own office. This allows them the freedom to set up their nursing practice in a manner that best suits their style. They might also be responsible for making decisions regarding the health systems of the school and may often be the only medical professional in the building.

Opportunity to educate children on health-related topics

For those passionate about health, school nursing provides the opportunity to educate children on this topic. You can answer questions and prepare educational programs or materials to inform students on relevant topics. You may also find yourself educating parents and teachers on health topics or providing health-related educational information to the school administration.

Less stressful than staff nursing

School nursing might cause less job stress than staff nursing for several reasons. It's usually less physically demanding than staff nursing because school nurses generally have shorter shifts and spend less time on their feet. They also might spend most of the workday in their office at a slower pace than nurses in other settings. The regularity of the schedule of a school nurse can be less stressful than the long shifts and inconsistent schedules of many staff or private nurses.

Related: Learn About Being a Registered Nurse (RN)

Cons of being a school nurse

Understanding the possible drawbacks of being a school nurse can help you determine if this is an ideal profession for you to pursue. Here are some of the cons of being a school nurse:

Challenges with parents

A school nurse may have a hard time getting a parent to turn in medical forms or records the nurse needs for their files, or the parent may react negatively to a treatment the nurse provided or didn't provide to the student. School nurses might face challenges coordinating students' medical care with their parents, but in many cases, parents often show their appreciation and gratitude for the care that they provide to their children.

Working between multiple schools

Depending upon the school system, some school nurses work between multiple schools. This means they may spend part of the day at one school and then travel to go to another school. It may be challenging to maintain two separate workspaces too. For some, though, this may provide variety to the job and help break up the workday.

Significant number of responsibilities

School nurses may have a large number of responsibilities, especially if they're the only medical professional in the building. They may be the primary health professional some students have access to and frequently work alone without support staff, which means they may be busy at times. The school nurse also is often the liaison between students, teachers, parents and physicians for student wellness. Although, this can help the workday go by faster and allow nurses to feel a sense of pride about their work, as they know that they helped care for many students throughout the day.

Related: 7 Ways To Manage Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

Working independently

Working independently can also be a con. School nurses may have to perform all their job duties without assistance and make sure they complete everything properly and on time. Unlike a staff nurse, the school nurse often is the only medical staff member on the premises, so they may not have a mentor or medical colleague to go to for problem-solving assistance, although they may be able to join a state school nursing association to develop a network of professional colleagues.

Lower annual salary than staff nurses

The average salary of a school nurse is $53,427 per year, which is a lower annual salary than a hospital staff nurse. Although, the annual salary accounts for the fact that the school nurse generally works only nine months out of the year due to summer break. When adjusted for the actual hours worked, the salary is comparable to staff nursing. The salary might also increase depending on the city in which they work.

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Similar educational requirements for less pay

While a school nurse often makes less annually because they work fewer total hours, they're still required to meet the same educational requirements as a staff nurse. Also, there are continuing education requirements that they need to stay licensed. While staff nurses can earn raises or promotions with additional education, this generally isn't true for school nurses. Some nurses may consider getting another part-time job over the summer or during breaks to supplement their income.

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Significant paperwork and follow-up activities

There may be a lot of paperwork to take care of and regulations for a school nurse to follow. For instance, they must follow the school district's policies and procedures and ensure the school staff and administration also follow policy correctly. They may have a lot of paperwork to process, such as health forms and immunization records. They may need to follow up with parents multiple times to get up-to-date records or necessary responses.

Some nurses may enjoy the administrative work, but others who don't may consider breaking up the work into different days or only working on it during a certain period of the day to prevent getting overwhelmed.

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