Every once in a while you can see your interventions having a real impact on a person. It feels good to give a student a chance at success.i had a teacher poke her head into my office about a month or so ago. "do you know juan hernandez?" she asked in a shrill tone. i told her i knew the name, but that he had not yet visited my office. juan recently transferred from an inner city school. i only knew that because i had called a few days ago to see if his records had been forwarded.
the teacher went on to describe juan's habit of squinting at the board during math class. "he tells me he doesn't have glasses anymore." i advised her to send him to my office during her class later that day.
sure enough, seventh period juan came into my office; a tough acting kid whose face hadn't lit into a smile in ages. he wore a mohawk haircut and clothes that looked more appropriate for mtv than middle school, juan was trying hard to have the persona of a bad boy. i smiled politely at him and asked him a few questions about his glasses. he told me he couldn't find them, then changed his story that they had gotten broken during his family's recent move. once set up in front of the snellen chart, i asked him to cover one eye and read the smallest line he could.
"t...e..." he said.
"go on." i prompted. he dropped the hand covering his left eye and turned quietly to me.
"that's the only one i can read." juan mumbled quietly.
we repeated the process with the other eye. he again told me only the two top letters and deemed the rest too blurry to make out. "honestly, i don't think i can see those too well with this eye, i just remembered from the other eye."
i told him i appreciated his honesty and sent him back to class. i tried to phone his mother; he only number i had on file for him went to voice mail. i tried again several days later - same results. voicemail.
my office gets busy. i try not to let things like that slip off my map, but between scores of student visits and battling vaccination compliance in 25% of my sixth graders, it fell off the map for a week or two. the good news is that stuff like that always finds its way back to the top.
i caught up with juan a couple of weeks later and asked him if he had discussed the glasses scenario with his mom and if she had gotten my messages. "yeah, she got them." i asked about the glasses. "we don't have any money and insurance won't pay until april." his ears turned red at this admission, his gaze firmly planted on my floor.
i told him that april was too long to wait and that i would make sure he could get new glasses. the rest of the day i called my contacts at various charities. eyes for the needy seemed most motivated to help with the least amount of document gathering. i could prove he was getting free milk after a quick call to guidance. i phoned his mom again, lucky to have her pick up the phone and explained the situation and that i wanted to help. juan's mom appreciatively gave me the name of his optometrist.
eyes for the needy wanted to know how the glasses would impact his life. i took one look at his grade report in the guidance office and could immediately think of a one way.
by noon i had faxed off the application to the charity. i called juan to my office and gave him a copy of the papers his family would need. his face lit up when i told him i had found someone that may be able to help.
a week or so later a blue and white form came to me in the mail. i again called juan to my office and gave him the form, followed by a call to his mom to let her know he would be bringing it home. she had already read her instructions and was prepared to take him for new glasses that very night.
a few days later, i saw juan walking with a group of his friends in the hallway, wire frames adorning his face. middle school boys are typically too cool to acknowledge the school nurse outside of the health office. i smiled at him.
"yo! nurse flare!! look i got my glasses! i can see the board now!" he announced for everyone to hear. "what you did was tight!" the bad boy persona was beginning to give way to a studious individual. even more importantly, he was smiling. he looked like a child that was truly happy for the first time in a very long while.
this job can get tedious at times. the stream of students seems endless. you are isolated from your co-workers. those that do stop by the office to visit are usually just looking to use the bathroom or score some free medical advice. the parents vary from being over protective mother bears that want to know about every paper cut and sniffle to not caring whether their child even makes it to school, let alone their academics. the paper work piles up and the phone never stops ringing. we work with the best interest of the student in mind constantly. we talk to the students about eating a healthy breakfast and tell them why an order of french fries and a fruit slushie are not a decent lunch. we learn to separate the ones that are really sick from the one's simply trying to skip a science quiz. we take the inevitable sigh and attitude from the students when they are sent back to class in stride. we get frustrated, feel under appreciated and are just plain tired.
but sometimes, when we're wondering if this job is really making a difference to anyone, a situation like juan's happens. it reinforces that the team in a school really can be effective - teacher knowing her students, nurse taking action, student getting help, grades improving, and student finding success. we want every kid to be a success story.
I've been a school nurse since 2003 for every age range from 3 to 21, public school to special ed. Currently I am working in a middle school.
Joined: Jul '05; Posts: 3,721; Likes: 10,783Dec 1, '11I probably have the same prescription as Juan (not very good lol) and what you did for him was amazing. Great article!Dec 1, '11You made such a difference for this kid, not only because you helped him see, but because you also gave him a vision of kindness and caring. This is a gift he'll rember for the rest of his life.
Thank you, Nurse Flare.Dec 1, '11Great article, and good reminder about all the lives we touch through this job! School Nurses ROCK!!!!
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