School Readiness Nursing: Interview with Sue Brown, RN, BSN, MSHPE, PA-C
WORKING NURSE: What is your nursing specialty and where do you work?
SUE BROWN, RN, BSN, MSHPE, PA-C: My nursing specialty is preschool school nursing and my title would be, School Readiness Nurse or “SRN.” I work for Orange Unified School District; this will be my 4th year with OUSD.
How did you choose this nursing specialty?
I applied for my first school nurse position because a friend of mine, Lisa Armstrong, who is a school nurse and worked for Magnolia School District, absolutely loved her job and suggested I apply. (Many gratifying nursing positions are often found through networking with other nurses!) I took a position as a part-time State School Readiness Nurse for a school district in order to supplement my income. My job was to perform health screenings for preschoolers and make appropriate referrals.
After that first year, I changed school districts and took a position with Orange Unified School District as a School Readiness Nurse funded by a new grant from the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, through Proposition 10 funds. I have found that I love working with preschool aged children and have made this my new “Specialty.”
What type of training did you have to go through to become a school nurse?
When I took my first preschool school nurse position, I applied and received my Preliminary School Nurse Credential with the State of California. You can continue to practice under your preliminary credential, but you must complete an additional college level program within five years to receive your permanent school nurse credential. I have since completed the School Nurse Credential program, which took approximately one year. In order to perform hearing screenings, I also needed to obtain a School Audiometrist’s Certificate—which I received after taking an audiometry course at the college level.
What is your schedule like and what are your daily tasks?
Every day is different for me as an SRN! I love the independence and the ability to schedule my day and week according to the needs of the children and families I serve. I usually work from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. I work 185 days a year, which gives me approximately 15 weeks off a year including holidays.
I provide health screenings for the 0-5 population with my SRN partner Edna Canto-Herzog during the morning and afternoon that include Vision, Hearing, Dental, Height/Weight/BMI, Immunization, Developmental and Health Status, or enter data collected from previous screenings. I also screen children for health and dental insurance, and a medical home. My fellow SRN and I also provide health education for preschool staff, children, and parents, so some days are spent preparing educational material for upcoming parent classes.
Last year, we provided approximately 7,626 services, out of 87,236 services provided to children in Orange County by the Children and Families Commission through the SRN program, and 375 services to family members in the Orange Unified School District. Every day brings something new!
What are your favorite aspects of the job?
After working most of my nursing career in a hospital environment where punching a time clock is mandatory, I enjoy the freedom of the SRN position. I love working with the preschool children who are so excited to learn and are bursting with energy. They try so hard during their screenings often misnaming vision symbols, such as calling an apple a banana, because they know it is a “fruit”—but haven’t quite mastered which fruit. Some are so active that it is difficult to keep them seated for 10 minutes, and some are so shy that they start to cry when you begin their screenings.
The true test is the beginning of the nurse-child relationship and how you develop a trust with each one. After that first sticker—awarded for the preschoolers’ job well done throughout their screenings—they cling to your legs on each return visit. What better job can there be!
One of the most satisfying moments in my career was identifying a preschooler with a large conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and helping that child to get hearing aids. From then on I was hooked and knew that I provided an important service that could change a child’s life. Other obvious positive aspects include the low stress, great hours, and weekends and holidays off!
Is there anything you dislike about school readiness nursing? Challenges you encounter?
Bringing attention to the importance of all school nursing is an ongoing challenge. For children to succeed, they need to be healthy and at school, which is the main objective for all school nurses. School nurses can provide a safe haven for children with health risks, insure that all children’s health is cared for on a daily or emergent basis while in school, and maintain health through school programs and education. School nursing, from preschool on, needs to be noted as a professional and absolutely necessary part of each and every school team.
On a smaller scale, one of our other biggest challenges, believe it or not, has been finding office space. School districts are set up to provide educational services and office space is always at a premium. Every year we hold our breath waiting to find out whether we pack and move, wondering what type of space will be available on the other end. We are thankful when a principal or school site makes a classroom or site available to us—as Yorba Middle School in Orange did this year and last.
What advice would you give to nurses interested in School Readiness Nursing?
Learn all you can about school nursing in your school district and others. Make appointments with many different school nurses, since every district is different regarding pay schedules, credit for years of nursing experience, and view of the school nurse’s role. Read articles on school nursing and investigate School Nurse Credential programs like the online program at California State University, Fullerton.
If looking for temporary type employment, school districts will often hire “subs” to help with district health screenings such as vision, hearing or scoliosis; this can be a first step into the realm of school nursing and give you an opportunity to speak and work with school nurses, without making a commitment to change specialties. Look for school nursing opportunities in nursing magazines, nursing job fairs, and on www.edjoin.org, the school district’s web employment advertising page. Think outside the hospital nursing box for this specialty!
The National Association of School Nurses (NASN), www.nasn.org
California School Nurses Organization (CSNO), www.csno.org
Orange County School Nurse Organization (OCSNO), www.schoolnurseandhealth.com
School Nursing: A Comprehensive Text, by Janice Selekman 2006
This article is from workingnurse.com.