The Role of the School Nurse

The nurse’s job is more far-reaching than most parents realize.

By FamilyTime


Whether your child periodically feels sick at school or suffers from a chronic condition, the school nurse is there, on the front line, ready to help. Make sure your children understand her or his role.

Everyone has stories of going to the nurse to avoid a tough test or get out of gym class, but it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about the nurse’s overall role. This way trips to her office won't be abused.

The nurse is on hand to make sure individual kids are safe and feeling well enough to learn. This is an important role and one that can affect a youngster’s success or failure.

The Nurse’s Role

The idea of a school nurse was introduced to American schools in 1902 as a way to deal with absenteeism. Since then, his or her role has expanded considerably to include any number of responsibilities. Depending on the state you live in, the nurse:

  • Ensures access to primary health care for students and staff who present with acute, chronic, episodic or emergency situations
  • Provides a system for dealing with medical crises
  • Assists faculty and staff in monitoring chronic health conditions among the student population
  • Reviews illnesses or injuries to determine a source of concern
  • Monitors immunizations
  • Engages in screening activities for vision, hearing, and posture
  • Assesses the physical environment of the school, including the safety of the playground and the quality of the indoor air
  • Addresses emotional issues such as bullying and violence  
  • Advocates for students with disabilities
  • Cares for students with chronic ailments such as asthma and diabetes by recognizing their special needs and developing consistent protocols for managing them

The nurse is on hand to make sure there are no outbreaks of disease (flu, conjunctivitis, and other communicable diseases). She or he is a watchdog for the overall health of the student population.

The nurse also knows which children have serious medical conditions that require ongoing monitoring. These kids may suffer from type 1 diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, or malnutrition. Some students may be undergoing treatment for various kinds of cancer or blood disorders, which the nurse should know about.

What to Tell Your Kids

Remind your children that the nurse is there to help. If they feel ill during class or if they injure themselves, they should ask the classroom teacher if they can visit the nurse.

This is serious business that should not be treated casually. On the other hand, the nurse is there to help and students should not hesitate to seek that help when they need it.

Parents can help the nurse, too. If your child exhibits symptoms of a contagious illness, keep him or her home until the symptoms abate. You are not doing the classroom any favors by sending your kid to school with a raging cold or a fever.

And if you do, more than likely you will get a call from the nurse asking you to pick your child up early. 

She’s only doing her job!