Balancing Objectivity and Compassion as a School Nurse

by Howard Gerber on September 28, 2017

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compassion objectivity school nurseIf you’re working as a school nurse, you should maintain a balance between compassion and objectivity. If you become too emotionally involved with the children you care for, it can cloud your judgment. But you also don’t want to lose your compassion. For school nurses, a caring and empathetic attitude must be balanced with clinical skills.

Keep in mind that working as a school nurse is different in many ways from working in an acute care setting. Acute care nurses often only treat patients for a brief time.

School nurses may interact with students over the course of an entire school year or several years. Although you may not see the same student every day, you’ll likely get to know your students, especially the ones who have chronic medical conditions.

One of the rewarding aspects of school nursing is the rapport you may build with students over time. But can the relationships you build lead you to care too much?

It’s natural to be empathic towards the students you treat. But if you become too involved, it can be challenging to also remain objective. Consider some of the following suggestions to maintain the right balance between caring and remaining objective:

Maintain professional boundaries:  You want the students you treat to trust you. Trust allows students to confide in you about abuse, addiction, and emotional problems. But remember you are not the child’s friend or counselor. While establishing rapport is helpful, becoming too attached is not. Maintaining your professional boundaries with not only students but with their families as well is important. Remember, do not overstep your role as a school nurse. Refer students to the school psychologist or social worker when appropriate.

Make referrals as needed: There may be instances when you should refer a student to another medical professional, mental provider, or school counselor. Do not hesitate to do so when needed. You don’t have to play the role of social worker, doctor, or parent. Enlisting the help of other professionals will help you stick to your role.

Remember there is only so much you can do: Nurses are often caring and compassionate people. In fact, many nurses enter the field with a strong desire to help people, but there may be times when there is nothing else you can do. Not every situation has a positive outcome. You can’t beat yourself up if there is nothing more you can do to help a child. Taking things too personally can lead to burnout.

Take care of yourself: School nurses take care of students all day. You may remind your students to eat right, exercise, and get enough rest. But do you follow your own advice? Putting your own health needs on the back burner is easy. But if you do not take good care of yourself, it’s more difficult to take care of others effectively. Allow yourself time to relax and unwind. Leave work at work. Taking good care of yourself helps you manage the demands of working as a nurse.

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