How Do I Prepare to Be a School Nurse in Washington State?
There are a variety of employment options for the different levels of nurse licensure in Washington state.
- Licensed Practical Nurses are employed in some districts to support the functions of school health by providing treatments, first aid, and one-to-one care to nursing dependent students.
- Registered Nurses — ADN/Diploma RNs are employed in some districts as classified/paraprofessional staff nurses. This is more prevalent in rural districts.
- Registered Nurses — BSN, MN, and Doctorate — may be employed as ESA Certificated nurses (see ESA Certification below) or classified staff depending on district policy and procedure.
Many districts require an Educational Staff Associate (ESA) credential from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, especially in the larger districts in urban areas.
ESA Certification Information
Qualified registered nurses who provide health services to students in Washington State are eligible for Educational Staff Associate (ESA) certification. ESA certification preparation introduces nurses to the education environment and laws related to health services management. ESA certification is awarded by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and governed by the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB).
There are no Washington State laws requiring nurses working in schools to be ESA certified however the title of School Nurse is protected to those nurses with ESA certification (State of Washington Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, 1997). Many districts do recognize ESA certification and hire the ESA school nurse into a certified position that typically puts the nurse on the same pay scale as teachers.
ESA certification identifies the professional school nurse as having knowledge about education law and they support students with health conditions and those with disabilities. ESA certification is not a substitute for orientation to the school nurse role.
ESA Course Listings (description and links)
UW — Foundations of School Nursing – January-April
» Courses | UW School of Nursing
WSU — School Nursing: Preparation for Initial Certification
» School Nursing: Preparation for Initial Certification | College of Nursing | Washington State University (wsu.edu)
PLU — Introduction to School Nursing – offered Summer and Fall.
» Introduction to School Nursing | CCNL | PLU
PSESD — Professional Transition to the Public Schools: ESA Certification Course – multi-disciplinary. Offered four times per year.
» Special Services – Puget Sound Educational Service District 121 (psesd.org)
NEWESD — Professional Transition to the Public Schools: ESA Certification Course– multi-disciplinary. Offered four times per year.
» Initial Educational Staff Associate (ESA) Course – NorthEast Washington ESD 101
There are 3 ESA certificates available to Registered Nurses:
- Initial ESA Certificate — The first-tier full certificate. This certificate is valid for 7 years and is eligible for renewal by meeting continuing education and licensure renewal requirements.
» More information on the Initial School Nurse Certificate: School Nurse | OSPI
- Professional ESA Certificate — An advanced level certificate. Eligibility requirements include 150 hours of school nurse-specific professional development and 2 years of WA State school nursing employment. This certificate is valid for 7 years and is eligible for renewal by meeting continuing education and licensure renewal requirements.
- Limited (Conditional) ESA Certificate — A certificate that may be requested by a school district when employing a WA State licensed Registered Nurse who does not hold a Bachelor’s degree (or higher) in nursing. This is a short-term certificate valid for up to 2 school years. Renewal must be requested by the school district, and renewal requirements must be met.