School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: 5 Steps to Claim the Title of Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) in Your Schools

Creator: Fokusiert Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Have you noticed newer educational titles in your school district that include Chief? I have seen the following titles: Chief of Talent, Chief of Schools, Chief of Staff, and many Deputy Chiefs too. What I have not seen is Chief Wellness Officer (CWO). That would be us, the school nurses; we are the CWO in each of our buildings. How do we claim that title, even if it is not official? It is a state of mind more than a formal title.

Let’s reframe our role and step out of being hidden leaders in our schools to being out front, proud and visible. With COVID as a catalyst, our contributions to school health and wellness have been on overdrive. We need to keep that momentum going as we finish the school year and head into 2023-2024, after a much needed and deserved break.

Here is a pressing question to consider; are you a hidden school nurse leader, quietly making a significant impact on your students and school community? It’s time to step out of the shadows and become noticed for the exceptional leader that you are. Let’s explore five steps you can take to make your leadership shine and gain the recognition you deserve.

Step 1: Embrace Your Leadership Identity

The first step in becoming a noticed hidden school nurse leader is to embrace your leadership identity. Recognize the unique skills, qualities, and experiences that make you an exceptional leader. Believe in your ability to make a difference and let that confidence radiate in everything you do. When you see yourself as a leader, others will begin to see it too. Try on the title of Chief Wellness Officer and notice how that feels. Are you holding your head higher, feeling empowered to take on the day? This is a mindset, one that will serve you and your school community well.

Step 2: Foster Meaningful Relationships

Building strong relationships is crucial for gaining recognition as the CWO of your building. Take the time to connect with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and fellow staff members on a deeper level. Be sure to step outside of your health office and participate in school activities. I make it a habit of visiting classes in the morning, especially those that either has subs or are my known frequent visitors. It allows me to take the proverbial “temp” of the building for the day and head off unnecessary visits as school is starting. The students welcome a visit, and the staff appreciates the connections made. By fostering meaningful relationships, you create a network of advocates who will appreciate and promote your leadership. 

Step 3: Showcase Your Expertise

Demonstrate your expertise by sharing your knowledge and insights. Offer to lead workshops, seminars, or training sessions on health-related topics for students, staff, or parents. Write articles or blog posts about relevant health issues and distribute them within your school community. By showcasing your expertise, you position yourself as a go-to resource and establish yourself as a leader in your field. Remember, you are educating people about your role, this is not boasting.

One simple, but effective step to take is to showcase NASN’s Framework for 21st-Century School Nursing Practice by blowing up the pdf on the website into a poster size! It is a conversation starter and clearly lays out the components of our role. Another effective idea is to have a presence on your school’s website. Be sure to update your site throughout the school year. If you are in a middle or high school, perhaps include students who need community hours to help you with your website page. 

Step 4: Take Initiative and Innovate

CWOs stand out by taking initiative and bringing innovative ideas to the table. Identify areas where you can make a positive impact and develop creative solutions. Whether it’s implementing a new wellness program, organizing health-related events, or collaborating with other departments to enhance student support, take charge, and be the catalyst for positive change. Your proactive approach will not go unnoticed.

Step 5: Seek Recognition and Advocacy

Finally, don’t shy away from seeking recognition and advocacy for your work. Share your accomplishments and success stories with colleagues, administrators, and parent organizations. Highlight the positive outcomes that have resulted from your initiatives and interventions. Join the National Association of School Nurses and your state affiliate to network with other school nurse leaders and showcase your expertise on a broader platform. Remember we are lifelong learners, and often our school districts do not provide the necessary professional development we need, but NASN does!

Embracing your role as CWO requires intentional effort and a belief in your own capabilities. By embracing your leadership identity, fostering meaningful relationships, showcasing your expertise, taking initiative, and seeking recognition and advocacy, you can step out of the shadows and make a lasting impact on your school community. Remember, your leadership is essential, and your contributions are invaluable. By becoming noticed, you inspire others and elevate the role of school nursing in our educational system.


2 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: 5 Steps to Claim the Title of Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) in Your Schools”

  1. a belief in your own capabilities…… some people naturally do, some naturally don’t. Some administrations foster an environment for you to shine. Some do their best to force you to regularly ask yourself, “why am I here?”. I love the simplicity of these 5 steps. So where to start??? a belief in your own capabilities!!!

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