Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The purpose of this descriptive correlational study was to analyze relationships between selected role theory variables and the school nurse's role in working with students with handicapping conditions. Public Law 94-142 mandates that all students be educated in the least restrictive environment possible, resulting in enrollment of students with disabilities and other health impairments that often require special health services. This mandate has necessitated that school nurses re-evaluate their roles in assisting handicapped students to receive an appropriate education. Further, there is some question as to the educational needs and preparation of school nurses to fulfill their responsibilities in the care of handicapped students. The theoretical framework for this study was based on three selected concepts from role theory: role expectations, role perception and role performance. The study described (a) the role performance of the school nurse in working with a handicapped child, (b) the educational preparation of the school nurse, and (c) the barriers to role performance in working with handicapped children. Additionally, the study explored the relationships between the school nurse's formal education, years of experience, and barriers to role performance in working with the handicapped child. The instrument was a researcher-developed self-reporting questionnaire that was mailed to 600 practicing school nurses in the states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Two hundred and ninety-two responses were tabulated using descriptive statistics including crosstabs cli square. Correlational computations were used to answer hypotheses. Data analysis was organized around the six areas of the survey instrument. For all statistical tests, significance was accepted at the 05 level. The majority of respondents held a baccalaureate degree in nursing, but formal degree preparation included ADN, Diploma, Baccalaureate, and MN degrees. Most of the respondents were certified according to their state mandates. Among the findings of the study were indications that school nurses with increased educational preparation were more likely to feel competent in providing selected services to handicapped children such as performing physical assessment, including neurological examinations, providing counselling, and writing health-related goals on the Individualized Health Plan (IEP). level of educational preparation did not seem to affect perceived competency in performing psychomotor skills. An attempt was made to determine if educational preparation affected the scope of practice; however, a limitation was noted in that the number of children with handicaps enrolled in small school districts was very low. A discrepancy in every category was noted between the number of handicapping conditions identified in a school and the number of handicapping conditions with which school nurses provided services. School nurses were not involved with all of the children identified with handicapping conditions. Barriers reported with greatest frequency by the school nurses related to job description discrepancy, lack of time to perform job, and overlapping of roles with other professionals in the school setting. The majority of nurses indicated a desire for more education, but cited time, money, distance, and family responsibilities as deterring factors. Based on findings from this study, a course outline. sample module, and a bibliography was developed and will be offered as part of a school nurse course preparing school nurses to work with handicapped children. Future courses will also be developed that will be more flexible and accessible to school nurses in rural and remote areas.

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