Career Trends for School Nurses

HCschool-nurse-2As part of our series of question-and-answer chats with healthcare leaders, Linda Davis-Alldritt, RN, BSN, MA, president of the National Association of School Nurses and former consultant to the California Department of Education, discusses how healthcare reform will impact the profession and how school nurses can best advance their careers. (The interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

What’s the biggest change you either already see or foresee with healthcare reform specifically for school nurses?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) focuses on prevention, wellness and chronic disease management to effect long-term cost containment. School nurses do prevention, wellness and chronic disease management every day. Acute-care cost containment comes from effective chronic disease management and early intervention.

With the pressure on clinic- and hospital-based providers to be accountable for outcomes, there may be more recognition for full-time school nurses, who can provide the needed follow-up care and/or chronic disease management when children and youth are sent home from the hospital or clinic.

I am hopeful that that recognition will dawn sooner rather than later, and that hospitals, providers and insurance companies will see it in their best interests to share the cost of having school nurses available for their patients.

What are the biggest changes in the workplace for members of your association?

The biggest change will be a welcome change. School nurses will be able to identify students who are at risk for both health and learning problems at an early age. Early intervention and treatment, instead of the opposite, will become the norm.

If school nurses are to fully implement the ACA’s focus areas of prevention, wellness and chronic disease management, then school nurses will need to rely more on support staff to do clerical tasks that do not require the skills and training of a licensed, registered school nurse.

What specialties or certifications do you see growing in the next five years?

Most school nurses are registered nurses, many hold a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN) and increasing numbers have master’s or doctorate degrees. To be most effective in responding to the ACA’s goals, school nurses should aim for a minimum of a BSN.

It also will be increasingly important for school nurses to be nationally certified as school nurses.

For newcomers in school nursing, what’s your best advice?

Join your professional organization at the state and national level; attend an orientation program after employment is firm; join your Area Health Education Consortium (AHEC) or other organization that provides continuing education to nurses; network; find a mentor; prepare for national certification; join your school’s parent-teacher association to connect with the parents of your students; and send a letter of introduction to local pediatricians and family-practice physicians.

And for mid-career professionals?

Do all of the above if you haven’t already. Join your professional organization and become a leader at the state or national level. Consider higher education. Seek more opportunities to teach your local community what you do and how to expand school health services. Take an active role in your schools and districts. Run for school board.

Our series of question-and-answer chats features leaders in various healthcare organizations and associations. Want your association leader to share their vision for the future of healthcare? Email your contact information to the

Related article:
Q-and-A With a School Nurse Administrator

© Health Callings, Dice Holdings Inc., 2013

About Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan is a New England-based freelance writer who has covered business issues for 20 years.

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