In the middle of National Nurses Week, a day is designated to honor the school nurses who work in schools nationwide and address issues that range from splinters to seizures. This year’s School Nurse Day on May 11 helps recognize and celebrate this career.

School nurses take care of children who attend school and with that familiarity they build close relationships with the children they see and often their families. Like a puzzle to piece together, school nurses work with the larger school community to understand and help treat the health needs of schoolchildren.

The pandemic has put increased pressure on school nurses, who already frequently are short staffed in their school districts. As much as school nurses are expected to advocate for the children they care for, they also need to advocate for themselves and their profession to ensure the best conditions for them to do their jobs.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) is a proponent of school nurse advocacy and has identified some of the top legislative priorities for school nurses and areas where nurses in the field can get involved.

For 2022, NASN targets areas that have a powerful impact on the children they work with, and their families, and issues that influence how a school nurse can operate within a school. Topmost is that each child should have access to a school nurse with the passage of the Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (Nurse) Act. Passage of this act would make it easier for schools to fund school nurses and would have the intention of alleviating some of the financial cost to districts. With grants, schools would be more able to provide a nurse who is sometimes the only medical professional a child might see.

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In a forward-looking advocacy, NASN also encourages nurses to work for passage of the Tobacco Tax Equity Act, which will impart a tax on more tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. By raising taxes, nurses would hope to address the health disparities that are linked to youth tobacco use–and that in the wider community.

Because nurses know that health equity is so essential, the passage of the Improving the Social Determinants of Health Act is another identified priority. Children can’t learn as effectively if they don’t have secure housing or a nourishing and stable food supply. These and other social factors that provide a foundation from which children can have better lives are essential.

Advocacy can take as much time as a nurse has to offer. From writing to a legislator to getting more involved with work on the local, state, or federal level, there is always something that can be done to help make the jobs of school nurses and the schoolchildren they work with better.

A school nurse is a health practitioner in the educational field and so straddles two distinct professional worlds. Their work, focused on the students and their families, must encompass health and also the wider community they may see. Despite the tensions that can sometimes arise between the two areas, school nurses find incredibly meaningful, challenging, and rewarding work in their field.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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