How do I get a School Nurse Certification?

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  • Written By: Barbara R. Cochran
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 February 2018
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Some nurses prefer to work in a school environment, which is less hectic than a hospital. The emphasis in a school setting is on safety and health maintenance for students, rather than on life or death situations. The overall goal of a certified school nurse is to promote the health of the school community, through health education and assessment, and intervention with students. The philosophy behind school health programs is that healthier students are able to learn better, something that bodes well for the healthy future of the nation.

Registered nurses who want to work in a school setting can take the appropriate coursework at an accredited university, which culminates in school nurse certification. Online programs that lead to this certification are also available to prepare you for the exam. In most parts of the United States, the interested nurse needs to hold the equivalent of a bachelor's degree from an accredited hospital or university nursing program to qualify for enrollment in classes toward this certification, even though many candidates have master's degrees, or even PhDs, in nursing, or in a field related to school nursing.


The required coursework leading to certification varies from state to state. Typical coursework is concerned with an overview of public health settings, human growth and development, and teaching and learning theories, since a school nurse is responsible for coordinating student health care inside of the instructional environment. Many nurses who apply for school nurse certification will have earned a master's or PhD in education or educational psychology. Since students are under ever-increasing social and psychological pressures, nurses who seek post-graduate certification often take courses in psychiatric nursing. The postgraduate track typically culminates in an internship carried out under an experienced, certified nurse.

In the United States, nurses can take the voluntary certification exam offered by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN). A candidate for NBCSN school nursing certification has to have practiced as a nurse in a school setting for at least three years before he or she can apply to take the exam. Typically, school nurse certification is valid for a period of three years, at which time it can be renewed. School nurses, as is true for every type of practicing nurse in the United States, must first be certified by the Department of Health and Education.


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Post 4

I think you're putting too much thought into this. A school nurse has it easy and that's one of the reasons for the lower pay. But then again, nurses are a dime a dozen anyway.

And once again, I want to ask you a question:

What's the difference between an RN with an ADN and an RN with a BSN? Nothing. You're still a nurse. You'll make the same amount of money (unless you're a male) and all of the other nurses will tell you that you should get your BSN! This does nothing but perpetuate the myth that a bachelor's degree in butt-wiping elevates your status some how. Rise above. Be a physical therapist. You'll make more money and you'll be independent without a bunch of female co-workers looking to play "I'm better than you."

Ah, all of this hurt your egos, didn't it? Tough.

Post 3

I think, if you are planning to be a school nurse, one thing you will need to have clear in your head before you start is your stance on birth control and abortion.

Because if you are at a co-ed, or girls only school, you will have to face this at some point. And if your stance does not agree with the official stance, you'll quickly be in trouble. So, I think, since it's such a contentious issue, it's better to get it clear from the beginning.

Post 2

@Mor - The thing is, it's bad for the health as well, if someone is really depressed or stressed out. So, a school nurse in particular, (but pretty much any kind of nurse) would need to be able to recognize when something is just a tummy ache and when it is depression.

I think it would be an extremely challenging job and I'm not sure I could handle it. At face value it seems like you'd only be dealing with flus and headaches, but kids can get into some awful things. How do you deal with kids who come to school drugged, or drunk?

It would be very difficult.

Post 1

I think it's a very good idea to have some kind of experience or qualification in counseling or psychology before you try to become a school nurse.

These days it seems like schools have less and less funding for mental health care. I've heard of some of them sharing a counselor between three or more schools in the district.

And kids are at such risk of suicide and pregnancy and so many other things these days, it's crazy not to give them the option to have someone to talk to.

Unfortunately, often the kids that need counseling the most can't afford to get it. So, I'd imagine a school nurse would hear a great deal, and need the ability to process it and help the students as much as she (or he) can.

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