The Value of a School Nurse

The Value of a School Nurse

Every day in schools across the country, school nurses fight a common misconception — that we’re just here for boo-boos and bandages.

While the practice of school nursing is often misunderstood by parents, educators, legislators, and other health professionals, rest assured that professional school nurses are an essential component of both our nation’s health care continuum and achieving the goals of student learning and academic achievement.

Yes, schools exist for the purpose of education, but without professional nursing staff on site to monitor and maintain student health, educational efforts can falter. The relationship between student health and academic achievement is inherently conjoined. Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders said it best:

“You can’t educate people that are not healthy. But you certainly can’t keep them healthy if they’re not educated.”

Professional school nurses are essential in identifying and addressing health issues which impact school performance. There is a plethora of evidence and case study data proving that the work of dedicated, on-site registered school nurses increases attendance and instructional time, promotes safety, decreases emergency and crisis management response times, and provides so many additional health and educational benefits.

It’s more important than ever to remember that professional school nurses also support education through the public health functions of epidemiology and infectious disease control. Besides ensuring compliance with immunization requirements, school nurses serve as sentinels in disease surveillance for their schools. As trained nursing professionals working with the Virginia Department of Health, school nurses can detect patterns in illness during the early stages of an epidemic and develop interventions and recommended strategies for virus containment to prevent further spread.

As a standard of our profession, school nurses are the selfless guardians of health and wellbeing for all students. We are key members of the education team and leaders of school health who keep students healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Virginia Association of School Nurses is here to ensure our voices are heard, our value is understood, and our mission is carried out.

The Value of a School Nurse

Key Facts About School Nurses

  • School nurses influence attendance, which influences achievement and graduation rates.
  • School nurses reduce chronic absenteeism by: 
    • Outreach to students/families to meet their individual needs;
    • Helping student/family access to needed physical or mental healthcare providers;
    • Ensuring students feel safe at school;
    • Providing student and family support during the school day;
    • Advocating for school-wide approach to addressing chronic absenteeism;
    • Encouraging utilization of reporting systems for better data collection;
    • Conducting parent/caregiver and student classes on health topics; and
    • Addressing chronic tardiness, early dismissals, and class absence.
  • School nurses are an essential arm of public health promoting wellness and preventing injury. 
  • Registered nurses in schools are correlated with increasing immunization rates.
  • School nurses are crucial to children’s mental health. 
  • Through case management of chronic illness, school nurses play a pivotal role in the health and wellbeing of children and contribute to improved health and education outcomes. 
  • School nursing services allow faculty and school leaders to focus on education and leadership. 
    • A nurse in the school may provide a principal with nearly an hour each day allocated to their role as instructional leader. Other staff spend less time diverted from their primary job responsibilities to address student health issues.