How Does a School Nurse Differ From a Hospital Nurse?

NursingFebruary 24, 2014


If you are contemplating a career as a school nurse, you may wonder how the role compares to that of a hospital nurse. Those in the nursing profession who work in the school system apply their skills and medical knowledge to promote the health of students, thus enabling them to maximize their educational attainment. Although your technical nursing duties will be similar to those in a hospital setting, major differences will be found in non-technical duties, as well as in working conditions.


Like nurses in a hospital, school nurses devise individual care plans for each of their patients with chronic health conditions. The nursing tools employed in this care are much the same as those used in a clinical setting. They include the use of catheters, nebulizers and insulin pumps, along with ventilators, feeding tubes and monitors. Administering medications and ensuring their safety will be another part of your job.

Differences in Duties

Aside from caring for students with health issues, school nurses have duties that are not normally associated with a hospital. Your role will involve responsibilities, such as screening for vision, hearing and scoliosis, bike and car safety, immunizations, and reducing high-risk behaviors, like smoking, drinking and drug use. Other duties will include the health education of students and staff, in addition to managing emergency service plans and disaster preparedness.

Differences in Working Conditions

A sphere in which hospital and school nursing jobs differ greatly is in relation to working hours and time off. As a nurse in the school system, your schedule will typically be from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. You will have weekends, holidays and summers off, and you will never be required to work night shifts or 12-hour shifts.

School Nurse Certification

National certification indicates that the school nurse has a level of expertise above and beyond minimum entry competence. You can obtain this through the successful completion of the National Board for Certification of School Nurses exam. Some states may also mandate that you have a state certification or license for school nursing.

Where Do School Nurses Work?

Several options are available to you when looking for school nurse jobs. In addition to public and private schools, you could also seek employment at colleges and universities, along with county and state boards of education. Other choices include public health departments and agencies.

School Nurse Salary

Your salary in this nursing specialty may be a little lower than that of your colleagues, who work in hospitals. However, when you factor in the extended time off during summers, the hourly pay is likely comparable.

Working as a nurse in the educational system is reportedly a career in which professionals enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction. In this unique position, you can identify abused children, as well as counsel those who are depressed or suicidal. Therefore, your duties in this job may permit you to profoundly enhance the welfare of students in your care.

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