Just like other nurses, school nurses need to go through continuing education programs in order to be able to maintain their certification. School nurse continuing education is a bit different than that requires for registered nurses.
However, unlike registered nursing continuing education, school nurses can:
Take online courses through the National Association of School Nurses’ website.
Take advanced-level courses in healthcare related subjects through a local college.
Go through another National Board for Certification of School Nurses or American Nurses Credentialing Center-approved continuing education program.
This is a bit easier than registered nurse continuing education, since registered nurses must find state-approved continuing education programs. The National Board for Certification of School Nurses is a national organization, so continuing education requirements and modules are consistent throughout the country.
Though the NBCSN offers school nurses certification, this is optional, and isn’t the same as the state licensure procedures required for nurses to practice. What’s more, hiring procedures for school nurses can vary from area to area. Some states and districts will hire only registered nurses as school nurses, while others will hire a registered nurse to oversee groups of “nurse’s aides” that tend to students.
Why is Continuing Education for School Nurses Necessary?
Medicine can change very rapidly, as new medications and methods are discovered. Years ago, it was acceptable for school nurses to give children medications like aspirin or diphenhydramine. Today, that’s pretty much unheard of. Continuing education ensures that school nurses stay on top of new developments in nursing, and keep up the skills that they need in order to care for their patients. Some school nurses have been working for decades, and school nurse continuing education allows them to continue to do their jobs well. Without it, there may be no way for them to keep on top of changing standards in the healthcare industry.
Boards of Nursing and The National Board for Certification of School Nurses
Every state has a Board of Nursing, but school nursing organizations are national. So, while licensure and continuing education standards for nurses can vary from state to state, this isn’t really the case with school nurses. For example, all school nurses are certified for five years at a time through the NBCSN, and are given a notice of expiry a year before their licenses expire. During this time, they have to meet the NBCSN’s criteria for renewal, and pay a certification renewal fee.
One of the criteria for school nurse certification renewal through the NBCSN is a current RN license. It is the responsibility of all school nurses to maintain their registered nursing licenses according to regulations established by their state’s Board of Nursing. Because every state’s regulations are different, school nurses must contact their particular Board of Nursing for an outline of the criteria they need to meet to keep their registered nursing licenses in good standing.
Can School Nurses Get Out of Continuing Education?
In the past, school nurses used to be able to evade school nurse continuing education by having their certifications set to “retired” or “inactive,” while they continued to work full- or part-time as school nurses. This created a lot of practicing school nurses that the NBCSN had no way to keep track of. As a result, the NBCSN elected to get rid of these statuses, so now school nurses can only be active, or not certified. This helps avoid the problems schools were having with “retired” nurses that continued to work, without attempting to maintain the level of school nurse continuing education needed to keep their certification in good standing. So, today, there is no way for school nurses to avoid needing continuing education if they want to maintain their NBCSN certification.
School nurses are a deceptively important part of the healthcare system, even though they don’t work in hospitals or doctors’ offices. Studies show that a lack of school nurses contributes to sicker students, and higher rates of absenteeism. School nurse continuing education helps keep school nurses informed about the things they need to do to keep kids safe, healthy, and in school.