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Career Story: Registered School Nurse

Registered School Nurse

Job Title: Registered Nurse (Presently School Nurse)

Type of Company: I work for a school district in a suburb of Albany, New York.

Education: AS, Nursing •• Licensed by New York state

Previous Experience: I worked as a nurse's aide for years before becoming a registered nurse. I worked in hospitals and doctor's offices and got management experience. I also worked for Albany Medical College.

Job Tasks: The role of the registered nurse in a public school has altered over time. She's no longer the "kind lady" who is the "second mother" at school. Today's RN is a highly-trained medical practitioner. Having strong diagnostic skills is the key to maintaining the health and safety of children and an RN has to have those -- if for no other reason than that she works without back-up.

A typical day might have the school nurse having to do eye and ear screening on a class. New York State mandates that all children have their height and weight measured, their eyes and ears examined and, in some grades, scoliosis screenings performed on them each year. There are many more medically fragile children in the schools today than formerly, so you might have the school nurse doing tube feedings on children who cannot eat normally, or testing glucose levels and giving insulin to a child who is a diabetic. The phone will be ringing off the hook with parents asking questions about their sick child at home. You are a resource person too. Meanwhile you are typing an article for the school's monthly newsletter, giving knowledge on health issues for children. This could include asthma education or giving information on how to remove a tick. You are working with the social worker, deciding what to do about a child who seems to be undergoing abuse at home. A staff member walks into your office and is feeling light-headed. His blood pressure is high and you recommend that he go see his doctor. Then you have children feeling sick to their stomachs; some are truly ill, others have "school-itis." Cuts, scrapes, broken bones... the list of medical complaints you'll encounter is endless. You're lucky if you get to eat lunch. And at the end of the day, you pray that all your hard work has truly helped some child in need. Only years of previous trauma nursing can help you prepare for this job. Your office is a mini ER for children. The reward is not in the money you receive, but in the satisfaction you get from having made a difference in people's lives. That is what medicine is all about. Whether you're a nurse, doctor or the EMT in the ambulance, your reward is helping people.

Medicine is a great field for a career. It is not all glory like on TV, but it's a very worthwhile job.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is helping others. There is a great satisfaction in knowing you have made a difference in someone's life. To see a person recover from major surgery or see the smile on the face of someone who can't thank you enough for what you have done for them.

The worst part is the lack of pay in contrast to the responsibility you have to shoulder. You could never be paid enough for the amount of work this job demands.

Job Tips: The more education you have, the more opportunity you'll have to get better paying jobs. Get experience in many different settings. You could work in the OR, the ER, a doctor's office, or you could do research, sell equipment, teach, visit people in their homes: the list is long. Also travel to different parts of the country or out of the country to try this job. Experiencing how medicine is practiced in other areas only adds to the fun of the job.

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