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Pros and Cons of School Nursing

What are the pros and cons of being a school nurse? In other words, “What are the positives and negatives about being a school nurse?” There are lots and lots of positives and…well…only a few “not-so-positive” things. I dare say that there is ONLY ONE NEGATIVE thing about being a school nurse. (We’ll discuss that later.)

As with any occupation, there are what we call “pros and cons.” Some jobs have an imbalance between the things that we may enjoy about it and things that we may “enjoy” less. This all has to do with personal preferences and paradigms, as well. After all, if we nurses had a dollar for every boo-hiney we stuck our finger in, we’d…well…we’d still be working for a living. But, as this picture depicts, things could always be worse:

School Nurse Double Gloving
Hope he “double gloved”

As with being a school nurse, there are those days where I go home and ask myself, “Why?” Soon I discover that for every “Why do I do this every day?” question, a “Oh, THAT’S why I do this!” answer follows. It seems that for every perceived “con” in being a school nurse, there is a “pro” to counter it. Let’s make a list:

Here’s one I hear a lot:

Con: “They don’t pay school nurses much.”

Salary.com reports, “The median annual School Nurse salary is $48,114, as of January 30, 2018, with a range usually between $38,447-$60,740; however, this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors.” If we consider the school nurse’s pay of $48,114 and compare that to salary.com’s report that a “staff nurse” makes $60,275, we find a $12,161 difference between the two fields. Is this a con? Well, maybe not.

Staff Nurse:
Staff Nurse Salary Range

School Nurse:

School Nurse Salary Range

Consider the benefit of time off and an awesome work/life balance that being a school nurse provides. With 10 weeks off during the summer, 2 weeks off for Christmas, 1 week off for Thanksgiving, 1 week off for spring break and the other days “peppered” throughout the school year (we love snow days), we school nurses are at work about 9 months of the year, with weekends OFF.

This is where math comes into play. Take $48,114 and divide that by 9, then multiply that result by 12. What we get is a nice $64,112 number that may would be our salary if we worked a full 12 months. Now, add in the weekends off, the personal days, and the benefits package that many districts bless us with and…well…the perception of a “con” is definitely “balanced” by the “pro.” At work by 7:30 a.m. and home by 4:00 p.m. leaves a lot of time for my other occupation.

Con: Parents

If you are a nurse, you deal with the public during an emotional time. School nursing is no different. And if the mamma perceives her baby was not treated right, that mamma can get mad! And mad she is when she calls. Sometimes that mamma can “verbally” attack you with vulgarities that she has punished her child 100x over for using. Once a mother called me and gave me the what-for because I mentioned the Tooth Fairy and money for a tooth the child had lost, “My son, [name], came into your office today, and you pushed your [expletive] spirituality on him. That’s not your right. I am just so [let your knowledge of words not allowed in school to take over] at you right now.”

“Yes, your spirituality! Suggesting that there’s a Tooth Fairy is spreading your beliefs and spirituality, and I want you to know right now that I am [again…expletive] [another expletive demonstrating how mad she is].”

She continued, “How dare you offer money for my child’s body part.”

“Body part?” I had to ask for help with this one.

“Yes, you offered my son money for a body part. We don’t believe in the [expletive] Tooth Fairy, and we definitely don’t believe in trading money for body parts…When you offered a dollar for my son’s tooth…”

This conversation continued for a bit with the frequency of expletive tapering off to a minimum as I maintained my respect for her paradigm (it was my biggest accomplishment of the day). Apologies and forgiveness were shared, and I humbly offered this parent the number to the district office to allow her to share her grievances with the superintendent and her staff (yes, I felt they too could use a good laugh).

However, this perceived “con” has a countering “pro” that warms your heart. Within the confines of my practice and license, many parents seek my advice for certain medical conditions and concerns. I always offer my “If it were me, I would…” or “If he were my child, I would…” The parents appreciate the insight and 1:1 attention they get. The occasional “1-star-rating, Tooth-Fairy-ranting parent” are offset by the dozens and dozens of “5-star thank-yous.”