School Nurses: Caring for Children with Autism


Please enjoy this informative post by guest blogger, Beth Greenwood:

For children with autism to be even partially successful, they need plenty of help. Autism and nursing are linked in many ways, from screening to basic care. In a news release celebrating National Nurses Week 2015, the May Institute, a non-profit organization that provides services to people with autism, notes that nurses offer compassion, clinical and organizational skills to the students they serve. For those seeking school nurse jobs, expertise in dealing with people who have autism is often required.

Broad Nursing Skills Needed

Like many mental health or developmental disorders, autism is very much an individual condition. Children with autism may be so similar to other children of their age that the condition is only noticeable in subtle ways. Others may be severely impaired. The nurse must be able to assess each situation and respond appropriately, to build rapport with children at different levels of impairment and to help manage behavior in the school setting. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—the full name for the various conditions labeled as autism—often have other issues such as gastrointestinal problems, seizures, anxiety, or sleep disorders, which affect their care.

Specialized Preparation

To prepare for school nurse jobs, students should plan on obtaining a bachelor’s degree, as a BSN is the minimum educational requirement for most such positions. Some educational institutions offer certificate programs or other specialized education to prepare nurses who want to specialize in the fields of nursing and autism. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, offers a certificate or minor in the “Integrated Nursing Care of Autism Spectrum Disorder,” which can be taken as a post-graduate course or after licensure. Such specialized training can help a nurse land a school nurse job.

Nursing and Autism: Making A Career

In addition to school nurses on the front lines, some organizations offer nurse management positions plus specialized roles such as health coordination or case management. Education beyond a BSN is typically required for more advanced management positions. Training in mental health beyond the basics acquired in nursing school can also help a nurse prepare for this field.

From the school nurse’s office to the management suite, autism and nursing can be combined for a satisfying career that makes a difference for children with autism.


Guest blogger bio: Beth Greenwood is a registered nurse with over 40 years of experience in the field, including both inpatient and outpatient care. She’s been a freelance writer for six years, specializing in medical and health care topics as well as health care careers.