So much more than a person who hands out Band-Aids and gives sickly students some respite from dreaded ailments such as the Monday morning maths test, school nurses play a very important role in health education, and in health management within the schools they attend.
Take, for example, the school nurse in Bunbury who saved a boy's life in April
, when the boy suffered a heart attack. School nurses are not only saving the lives of students, but now they are helping students cross-emotional thresholds as well.
You may be a school nurse yourself, you may know one personally, or you may be a student nurse considering your graduation options. If you're thinking about taking that path, or know someone who may be, encourage that person to continue. Those who are doing the job can tell you it's not without its frustrations, like any line of work, but it's also full of rewards. Let's dive in and explore the many ways you could be making a difference as a school nurse.
Gone are the days of lollies and deep fried snacks in school canteens. Nowadays, school nurses are working with the staff and canteens to provide healthier options for students and teachers. Today's school nurse is a champion of nutrition.
With a prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity, as well as other eating disorders in Australia, school nurses are responsible for creating educational programs. They strive to teach students about positive body image and healthy eating habits. In doing so, they are ensuring that students are equipped with the knowledge they need to make healthy choices and fuel their bodies for success. As a prospective school nurse, you have the chance to get students on the correct nutrition path early in life, which means your efforts could resonate through their entire lives.
Bullying and Mental Health
In Australia sadly we're experiencing a rise in mental health issues affecting children and adolescents. One in four students (27%) from kindergarten through seniors, in 2014, report being bullied in Australia
. This goes beyond performance in school. Issues with bullying weigh heavily on the mental health and well-being of these affected young people. Understanding and addressing these issues effectively is paramount to achieving positive health outcomes.
As a school nurse, you have the chance educate students about bullying and mental health issues, run workshops, provide counselling services, and give advice. You are able to put students and their families in touch with other services and health providers for additional support.
Let's talk about sex, something that some parents, guardians and teachers dread discussing with children and students. According to the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
(AYAC), 88% of year 12 students report experiencing some form of sexual activity. Shocking? For those of us over age 18, probably.
Never fear, the school nurse is here to educate, inform and answer questions. You can be the voice of reason and education at a critical time in student's lives. With youth having greater access to information via the Internet than ever before, many are discovering and learning about sex at a very young age.
Unfortunately with the proliferation of pornography, children are not always learning about sex and their bodies in a healthy way. As a school nurse, you have the opportunity to play a massive role in implementing positive body image and sexual health education.
Allergies and Emergencies
Allergies and anaphylaxis are not uncommon these days. Food allergies affect 1 in 20 children in Australia
. To the annoyance of scroggin lovers everywhere many schools have even banned common allergens like peanuts.
As a school nurse, you'll manage information about students with known allergies; keep Ana-Pens and Epi-Pens at the ready if any reactions occur. If a student or staff member has an accident you'll be the one to provide management and care until further help arrives if required. You can be a hero.
It is for all these reasons and many more that school nurses are true heroes who are changing the world by positively influencing and educating the students in their care.
Obviously, the role of a school nurse in Australia will vary greatly depending on the state where you live. There are different programs and varying levels of funding from local governments. There are also differences between practicing as a school nurse within private or public schools.
If you are interested in a career as a school nurse we highly recommend getting familiar with the policies in your state and within local schools. See if you can spend a day or two with a school nurse to find out if it's something you want to pursue.