School nurse vs NP

  1. Hi all,

    Couldn't figure out which area of the forums was best to post this. Forgive me if I chose wrong!

    I've been a nurse for a little over 2 years. I just finished my BSN and I have 1 year adult critical care experience and 1 year peds experience (long term facility, vents, trachs, peg tubes, you name it). I have always had an interest in peds and I feel that I "belong" there more so than in the acute care adult world.

    Now it's time for me to make a decision between two things I've been considering for the past 2 years - do I become a school nurse or a nurse practitioner? I need your advice to help me make my decision!

    A little background: I am almost 26, married about a year now, planning to start a family in about another year or two. Family is important to everyone, but I want to make myself clear when I say that in my career, family must come first, career second. That's just an absolute must for me. Having a schedule that allows me to be home when my husband and (future) kids are home, for the most part at least, is worth it to me even if I make less money or something. My husband works hard in a full time IT career (he loves it, thankfully) and I have been busting my butt working extra shifts to put money in the bank. Now our wedding is done, our house is bought and furnished, and we have savings. It's time to get where I want to go in my career so that I can be "situated" when I start having kids.

    Quick note about school - I have some bad anxiety issues (being treated with therapy and meds, but nonetheless, it's bad at times), and school has never gone well for me. I have always taken longer than expected to complete school (my nursing pre-requisites, my RN/ADN, and my BSN). I am willing to put in the work, even if I choose NP, but it's just something to consider that I might struggle more with completing that or it might take me longer than planned.

    I've made a list of pros and cons for each job and I would love if you guys could comment and/or add to my lists:

    School nurse:
    Pros:
    - Less schooling/cheaper to obtain than NP
    - Great schedule - weekends, holidays, a few weeks in winter, and SUMMERS off
    - To add to the above - the option to work a second job, perhaps a per diem job all year or just a summer job as a camp nurse, a peds home care nurse, etc.
    - And to add once more, the option to add a second job, or simply just keep the first and focus all other time on the family
    - Usually great benefits
    - I love the school environment, working with kids... if I didn't become a nurse, I'd be an elementary school teacher!

    Cons:
    - The pay is typically less than hospital RNs make. Luckily I can supplement my income with a per diem job/summer job. Not that I would want two jobs, but I think the trade off would be pretty worth it. Besides, I don't have to have a 2nd or summer job EVERY year
    - It might be competitive to find jobs. I'm not exactly sure. I live 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia, my area is suburban and I would say moderately populated (?) it's definitely not like a quiet, rural area or anything. But it's not packed like a city. I'm concerned about being beaten out by other applicants and not being able to find a job or being pushed to get a job in the city, and many of the schools in the city aren't that great safety wise (it's a work in progress, but not somewhere I'd be comfortable working).

    Nurse Practitioner
    Pros:
    - Good pay (from what I understand it's anywhere from 85-100k?)
    - I could have good hours if I work in an office setting or something, which I would strongly prefer anyway compared to acute care
    - I wouldn't have to work a second job to make a decent amount of money (so overall I'd work less hours and still make great money. I'm all about making the most of my time, that's one thing that doesn't sit too well with school nurse. I'd be spending a lot of hours to make the money add up)

    Cons:
    - More schooling/clinicals/expensive schooling - could this interfere with family planning?
    - Not sure about job competition out here? Especially since I'm considering peds. I might have to travel to the city (to work at CHOP) or work acute care in my area if I want to stay local. I might have a hard time finding the "ideal setting and ideal schedule" close to my home.
    - I've heard some horror stories of salaried NP's putting in tons of unpaid OT and getting stuck late at the office jobs. I don't want to be working 8am-7pm Monday to Friday, that's for sure.
    - Are there PT opportunities for NPs and would that even be worth it? If I have kids, and eventually want to go to PT status for a few years to be home more, is that typically an option? I feel like if it is, I would still make decent money and my combined income with my husband's should be comfortable.

    One additional question - if I become NP, would you recommend that I go for pediatric NP, or family NP? I don't know much about the different types and what's "better" to choose.

    As you can see, it's a tough decision for me! I can see myself having a happy and comfortable life in both roles. there is so much to consider. I would love to hear from experienced folks out there who have some knowledge or personal takes on this.

    Thanks a bunch!! xoxo

    K.C.
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    About KC84

    Joined: Jun '18; Posts: 1

    6 Comments

  3. by   JenTheSchoolRN
    So, I can tell you my experience if it helps.

    I was in a direct entry NP program. Finished my BSN portion, took the NCLEX. Starting the NP portion part time so I could work. Started subbing in school long term for a school nurse out on medical leave. Worked with another awesome school nurse. Fell in LOVE with school nursing. It offered the autonomy I actually like (though it can also feel scary as well) and the hours I love. I did work in higher education before becoming a nurse, so it basically mixed nursing with education for me.

    I decided to look for a full time permanent gig after subbing for a month. Landed one a month after that (timing was great as my search began when schools were hiring for the next school year), still in school part time. Realized that school nursing was my calling in nursing and decided to leave my program officially with my BSN. I haven't regretted it since.

    The pay is lower, yes. But holidays are always mine. When there is a snow day, I don't have to work. At my school, my pay is on the teacher's scale. I qualify for a pension, which is rare these days. I also get the chance to teach health, which if you have a passion for teaching, may be a great way to pair it with nursing.
    Last edit by JenTheSchoolRN on Jun 7
  4. by   MHDNURSE
    I have been a PNP since 2001, and while I really enjoyed working as a PNP, I absolutely LOVE school nursing. I do not regret getting my NP as I used it for 4 years and love the extra clinical knowledge it gives me in this job. BUT based on what you have written, it sounds like school nursing might be a good fit for you.
  5. by   xxbeach
    Currently a school nurse pursuing my MSN-FNP. I'm craving adrenaline, and I do not have it in my current work position. University commitments on the other hand are real, and i'm lovin' it.
  6. by   Blue_Moon
    What you could do is get a sub position as a school nurse and try it out and then if you like it pursue a full time job. Having experience as a school nurse substitute will give you an edge over anyone applying that has no school nurse experience.

    School nursing does not pay as most other nurse jobs. I get paid according to the teacher's salary. I can make more working part time in the hospital than full time as a school nurse. However when you look at actual hours worked it's not as big of a difference as it seems. I don't work in the summer. I enjoy my time off with my family to recharge. It's a great job for a family because you have off all evenings, summer and holidays with your kids.

    However, you are young and have your whole life ahead of you. If you want to go back to school NOW is the time to do it! I don't think you could ever go wrong by increasing your education. You can get your NP done in 2 years if you buckle down hard. Then that would open up a lot more opportunities in the future. I would get my family so you could do peds but if you focus on peds then you might not be able to go as many places/practices. Good luck on whatever you decide!
  7. by   peacockblue
    School nursing was the best choice for me. It would not have worked well, however when my children were very little. I chose to work 3-11 casual pool at the hospital so we had very little time we needed to put the kids with a sitter. I went into school nursing once the kids were in school and it was the perfect fit. I live in Pennsylvania and am paid on the teachers scale. 12 years experience and am about $55,000. That's plenty for me. My kids are grown now, but I love my high school students and still love the hours and vacation. I'm just letting you know what worked best for me. Let us know what you decide.
  8. by   Glitternurse
    I completely get what you are saying about family first and I am right there with you. I am an LVN, so can't really respond to the NP side of things, but before I had was married and had kids I was working in acute care (back in the day when LVNs were still in the hospital). I continues in acute care when my kids were small, but it got more and more difficult getting those pictures and facebook posts from other people doing stuff with my kids. I ended up leaving nursing to be an instructional aid at their preschool just so I could spend more time with them. Fortunately the beginning of this school year the district decided to finally get help for the RN-PHN and created a district LVN position also fortunately everyone already new me and told me to apply, and needless to say I got the job. I am in the same district with my kids. I have lunch with them once a week when I am at their school. I have the same holidays and weekends and of course summer. I no longer feel like i have to miss them growing up so I can pursue a nursing career. I feel so fortunate. I have the best of both worlds.

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