Most elementary and secondary schools have a nurse on staff. The job of a school nurse consists of much more than tending to scraped knees and administering medication. Her responsibilities are diverse and include supervising state-mandated screenings, managing student health inventories and advising parents and staff members. A critical part of a school nurse’s job is educating students about healthy lifestyle choices. Individual school districts set the nurse’s curriculum guidelines; however, there are common threads.
Nurses typically address hygiene early in the school year. Students learn the importance of showering, using deodorant and washing their hands. School nurses advise them to sing a song such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to determine the proper length of time to wash hands. They educate students about the perils of spreading infections.
Nurses teach children about healthy food choices. They acquaint them with the food pyramid and discuss how each food group affects the body. They emphasize the importance of eating a healthy breakfast as fuel for the school day. Students – especially in middle school and high school – often have issues with eating disorders. School nurses highlight the dangers of these disorders.
Students as young as elementary school have access to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. School nurses educate children to the medical dangers of these substances. They differentiate “good drugs” and explain that medicines are drugs used to control and remedy various illnesses.
Nurses educate upper elementary school and middle school students about the physical changes they will experience. As a rule, boys and girls are separated for these lessons, and parental permission is required. Nurses talk to young girls about menstruation and provide them with starter sets of appropriate products.
Sex and Pregnancy
These lessons take place in middle school and high school. Depending upon the school district’s mandate, the school nurse may need parent permission. Students learn about sexually transmitted diseases, methods of birth control and what to expect when pregnant. In-depth instruction usually takes place in health classes.
In today’s hectic society, stress affects children and adolescents as well as adults. School nurses teach the students relaxation techniques. They show them correct breathing practices. They explain the role of sleep deprivation in regard to stress management.
Children, particularly in elementary school, use playground equipment and ride bikes to school. Schools nurse teaches boys and girls methods of staying safe. They explain the medical problems that can arise when students don’t follow safety procedures.
School nurses generally teach lessons to an entire class or group. However, they additionally provide instruction to individuals who have unique situations. They demonstrate the proper use of an inhaler or asthma spacer and the correct procedure for checking insulin levels.
Karen LoBello is coauthor of “The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition.” She began writing in 2009, following a career as a Nevada teacher. LoBello holds a bachelor's degree in K-8 education, a secondary degree in early childhood education and a master's degree in computer education.