Healthy Schools - Nurse's Office

School Nursing Definition

The National Association of School Nurses defines school nursing as: “A specialized practice of nursing that protects and promotes student health, enables 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.”

School nurses help make possible positive student responses to normal development; promote general health and safety; intervene when health problems arise; provide case management services; and work in partnership with others to build the ability of the student and student’s family to adapt, manage, advocate and learn.

Tennessee’s Coordinated School Health

Coordinated School Health (CSH) is an evidence-based model designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote healthy school environments so children arrive at school ready to learn.  CSH addresses eight components of school health:  health education, physical education/physical activity, health services, school counseling, psychological, and social services, nutrition, healthy school environment, staff wellness, and student, family, and community involvement. 

Prior to applying CSH in Tennessee, many schools had a patchwork of policies and programs for school health with differing standards, requirements, and populations to be served. Statewide CSH helped to streamline school health programs across the state and provided consistency for students.

School systems/special schools hire nurses to serve the general and special education student populations.  Out of the 1,714 public schools in Tennessee that responded to a survey, 58 percent or 994 schools employed a nurse full time in their school.

School Nurse Responsibilities

According to the National Association of School Nurses, after the child’s home, school represents the second most influential environment in a child’s life.  The role of the school nurse includes both health and educational goals.  There is a recognized relationship between health and learning, as there is between nurse availability and student well-being and educational success.  Students today may face family crises, homelessness, immigration, poverty, and violence, which increase both their physical and mental health needs.  School nurses perform a vital role within the school health program by focusing on these health problems faced by children.  School nurses need to be physically present in schools to address these responsibilities appropriately.  Improved student performance results where schools have a full-time school nurse. 

The National Association of School Nurses identifies 7 core roles that the school nurse fulfills to encourage child and adolescent health and educational success. The school nurse:

1.      Provides direct care to students,

2.      Provides leadership for delivering health services,

3.      Provides screening and referral for health conditions,

4.      Promotes a healthy school environment,

5.      Promotes health,

6.      Serves in a leadership role for school health policies and programs, and

7.      Acts as a liaison between school staff, family, health care professionals, and the community.

For a school nurse to function properly, they need cooperation of the entire school community, including the school staff, parents, the child, and school administration. 

Important Considerations for Parents

Student health is essential for learning and enhances school success.  Nurses working in conjunction with families, doctors, staff, and community, provide support for all students.  Nurses provide illness and injury assessment and intervention, emergency care, medication administration, and health counseling, as well as one on one teaching during their many interactions when your child visits the clinic.

School nurses play an increasingly important role in the lives of children with chronic health conditions because they are the first healthcare provider student’s visit without a parent present.

Do not send your child to school if they are in pain, are lethargic, obviously sick, with fever, feel nauseated, are vomiting, have an unidentified rash, or have diarrhea.

Teach your children to do basic infection controls such as washing their hands, coughing into their elbows, and proper nose blowing.

Provide the school nurse with proper items to administer required medications to your child.  These items would include routine and as-needed medications, epi pens, diabetic supplies, and any supplies needed for various procedures performed on the student on a daily basis as ordered by their physician and requested by their parents.

The Nurse’s Office can be a soft place to land for a student.  Sometimes a student just needs a hug or someone to talk to during an especially trying day.  School nurse’s can provide this type of support.

School nurses also provide services to school staff; providing routine blood pressure checks, counseling, and emergency care.

Government Partners

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Schools

Tennessee Department of Education
Coordinated School Health

School Safety

Additional Resources

National Association of School Nurses
School Nursing