School Nurse Competence

Nurses have the responsibility to maintain competence and continue personal and professional growth (American Nurses Association {ANA}, 2010). In the unique role of school nursing, nurses require expertise in health improvement and health management, primary prevention, public health, emergency response, care coordination, and team collaboration to support student health and safety efforts successfully. School nurses have a professional obligation to engage in self-evaluation and to demonstrate professional growth and currency with nursing practice in the setting where nursing practice is provided (National Association of School Nurses [NASN, 2013]). Ongoing professional development is key to maintaining and building competence in the school nurse specialty.

State and national school nurse certifications are encouraged as indicators of preparation and role competence. A professional portfolio is encouraged as a tool to articulate a school nurse’s competence and continuous personal and professional growth journey.

WA State ESA Certification

In Washington State, Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certificates are awarded to many professional roles that, while they do not necessarily involve teaching, play a part in supporting a student’s education. School nurses are eligible for ESA certification, which demonstrates preparation for this unique nursing position. Information on obtaining and maintaining ESA certification is available at: OSPI Educational Staff Associate (ESA) Certificates

WA State Initial ESA Certificate for School Nurses

The Initial ESA Certificate is the first tier full certificate issued for the school nurse role. To obtain this certificate, a school nurse must meet eligibility qualifications and complete a Professional Transitions course, preferably a course designed specifically for school nurses. Approved nursing courses are offered by PLU Center for Continued Nursing Learning, UW School of Nursing, and WSU School of Nursing. For information about approved courses and course contacts visit Professional Transitions to Public Schools: Initial ESA Certification

WA State Conditional ESA Certificate for School Nurses

The Conditional ESA Certificate for school nurses is available to school districts for employers that would like to hire a registered nurse to a certificated school nurse position when the nurse does not meet eligibility qualifications for an Initial ESA Certificate. A request for a conditional certificate must be initiated by the school district. For information about conditional certificates, see OSPI Conditional ESA

Maintaining ESA Certification

Registered nurses who hold Initial ESA certification are required to complete 100 hours of professional development, among other requirements, to renew their Initial ESA certificate. See OSPI ESA School Nurse Renewal.

Acceptable units of credit for ESA renewal include clock hours and any that satisfy the continuing education requirements for Washington State RN licensure. See “DOH License Hours as Clock Hours” at OSPI Continuing Education Clock Hours.

National School Nurse Certification

Obtaining national school nurse certification is a mark of professional distinction, reflecting competence and professionalism. The National Certified School Nurse (NCSN) credential is awarded by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN).

Professional Portfolio

School nurses are encouraged to develop and maintain a professional portfolio as a method of validating their personal and professional accomplishments. A portfolio can articulate nursing practice in a way that is meaningful for the school nurse’s supervisor, whether a non-licensed school administrator or a similarly licensed health service professional.

Suggested components include artifacts that align with school nurse scope and standards and school nurse framework principles, including:

  • professional mission statement
  • resume
  • job description
  • contract
  • annual professional goals status
  • self, peer, supervisory evaluations
  • certification status
  • professional development status
  • letters of recommendation/appreciation
  • awards
  • written feedback from parents, staff, healthcare professionals
  • leadership activities
  • volunteer activities