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  • School nurses are an important part of a child's educational journey

    Author: Rahima Saikal

Did you know that Australian school nurses have been around for more than 100 years? Whether people are aware or not, school nurses play a crucial role in Australia’s education landscape. With the rise of mental health and other health issues amongst school children, teachers are turning to school nurses more than ever.

As part of the National School Reform Agreement starting in 2025, federal and state governments are focusing on key targets and looking at how student’s mental health and well-being can be improved. School nurses are an important factor when tackling this issue, however, unfortunately, fewer than one in six schools in Australia actually has a nurse on staff.

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A common misconception is that school nurses aren’t ‘real’ nurses. School nurses are qualified and registered health professionals. Often they care for school students who have an acute injury or illness, but they also prescribe and administer medications, assist students who suffer from mental health conditions, offer referrals and work together with parents to ensure their children are happy, healthy and thriving. 

Kerry Bradshaw, a school nurse at a public primary school in Sydney’s inner west finds her job rewarding and says each day is different.

“I honestly find my work so satisfying and I love working with children. One day I am caring for a child who has sprained their ankle during the sports carnival and the next I am talking to parents of a child about visiting their GP to be put on a mental health plan – it really varies” says Kerry. “We also currently have a large number of kids at the school who require various medications and it is up to me to ensure that all of them take it safely every day”.


School nurses don’t just deal with on-the-spot issues. Studies have shown they are also incredibly helpful at early intervention and screening.

“I’ve also been part of the team at a primary school where we perform routine health check-ups for kids starting kindergarten. I have detected abnormalities in many children and they have been able to receive the treatment they need. If we didn’t do these routine checks, there could be children with issues that are not picked up on” adds Kerry.

While the number of school nurses is lacking around Australia and each state operates differently, things are slowly changing. South Australia do not hire school nurses in the public school system but Queensland and Western Australia do. New South Wales recently recruited up to 100 nurses for the ‘Wellbeing and Health In-reach Nurse’ program and Victoria, which has a well-established school nurse program also has the state government-funded ‘Doctors in Secondary Schools’ program. This program aims to have a doctor and nurse on campus for one day of the week at 100 schools in Victoria’s most under-resourced metropolitan and regional areas.

While any registered nurse can apply to become a school nurse, Kerry believes that being a school nurse suits someone with a primary healthcare background.

“I know some school nurses who have come from working in hospitals to being school nurses and they are too ‘medical’ in their way of being. We have to remember that we are dealing with children so usually someone that has a background in primary healthcare is a great candidate” says Kerry.

Kerry also encourages parents to have a chat with their child’s school nurse to find out how they can be of assistance.

“I often speak to a lot of parents who don’t exactly know what we do and how we can be beneficial to their child’s wellbeing. One parent approached me last term telling me that her 11-year-old son was displaying signs of anxiety at home and wasn’t sure if I was the right person to approach. She was so relieved when I told her she had come to the right place and I helped her refer her son to see a psychologist which has greatly helped him. If parents are picking up on something at home and aren’t sure what to do, bringing this to the attention of a school nurse is a great thing to do”.


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Rahima Saikal

Rahima Saikal is a freelance journalist and content creator and has been working in the media industry for 10+ years all around the world.

Rahima enjoys writing about healthcare, wellness, travel and social change movements, particularly animal rights.

Having written numerous articles for both print and online publications, Rahima is well versed in what makes a good story.

Rahima lives between Bali and Australia with her family and 3 Bali dogs.