Importance of School Nurses

School nurses play an integral part in a child’s education and health. School nursing, a specialized practice of nursing, protects and promotes student health, facilitates optimal development, and advances academic success. School nurses, grounded in ethical and evidence-based practice, are the leaders who bridge health care and education, provide care coordination, advocate for quality student-centered care, and collaborate to design systems that allow individuals and communities to develop their full potential. Adopted by the NASN Board of Directors February 2017.

School nurses like Laura Widdice, Director – Health Services for Renton School Districts provide an array of services for their students and staff. They do more than just helping a student who isn’t feeling well or needs treatment for a scrape or cut. “Some people may think school nurses have a relaxed job and that’s about having fun with the kids but big stuff can happen on campus,” said Widdice.

One of the school nurses helped a staff person with stroke like symptoms and worked with 911 and EMS to have the staff person transported to the hospital for evaluation of a stroke. That same nurse in the same year evaluated a student who did have a stroke and had to have surgical treatment.

Renton school nurses have also treated staff and students who were having cardiac arrest and needed an automated external defibrillator (AED). “Each time the AED has had to shock someone we were at 100% save,” said Widdice.

Although these are bigger and more flashy instances, they are fortunately not an everyday occurrence.

In addition, school nurses have many staff partnerships within their school such as working with athletics to ensure a student can fully participate in sports given their health condition. During COVID there was a lot of work with custodians and the cleaning protocol, working with facilities and ventilation and isolation rooms. They work with nutrition services to make sure student can safely eat the food, and with transportation services to make sure students can go to and from school safely.

School nurses do more than just work in the school, they contribute to community health. In the Renton school district, they’ve sponsored 45 vaccination clinics serving close to 4,000 people in these clinics. These vaccine clinics are not only for students and school required and recommended vaccines but also for adults for flu and COVID. “Vaccination efforts make a difference to the populations of health as well and I think that’s rarely recognized,” said Widdice.

A child’s health is imperative to their education and school nurses play a large role in ensuring they’re healthy so they can learn better. School nurses are committed to ensuring a student can learn and thrive. They also go beyond the school and support the community’s health efforts.

“We have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and their families every single day and not only do we have that opportunity, but we do it every single day. We work with people over long periods of time and we get to see students and families grow and change, it’s an incredibly rewarding area of work,” said Widdice.

-Kristine Wright