School nurses making a positive impact on their community
School nurses make an impact in a variety of place in their community. In their building (or buildings) with the students they serve, as well as the faculty and staff they interact with daily. We also are a part of the school in a variety of areas. We also have the benefit of getting to know the family system as the children of families move through our buildings.School Nursing, to me, is one of the many faces of public health nursing. As a school nurse in a rural public high school, I am the medical “go to” person in the building. I/we are there for students, staff and anyone else who is in the building at any point in the day. I personally have been blessed to be in a community that values and respects what our nurses bring to our schools. We have a three tier district; an Elementary, Middle and High School. This allows us to get to know our families on a more personal basis, when we meet the younger siblings as they move into our buildings.
We watch families thrive and fall apart. We are witness to fabulous family dynamics and to horrendously dysfunctional families. Families experiencing financial difficulties, may be hard pressed to acknowledge that publicly, yet the school nurse will often have an established relationship that facilitates a non threatening phone call to offer the help needed to access Free and Reduced breakfast and lunch while at school. While parents and stepparents and various significant others wander through the kids lives, we are often THE stable person from year to year for the child and the parent.
School nurses have their finger on the pulse of a community and are able to facilitate change for the better. We protect our children by advocating for them on a classroom level with a teacher, on a school level with safety changes and on a community level when we can support positive community initiatives.
As our children become inundated with technology, it is most often good for learning, but sometimes used in a horribly wrong manner. In a cell phone free environment in the health office, there is no texting or sexting. There are no Yik Yaks or Snapchats. Facebook statuses and Instagram photos, when not accessed, do not disrupt their time here.
The health office is often the safe haven for the bullied, mistreated and abused children. The socially awkward child knows there is always a smile and place to check in, when nowhere else seems safe. The picture perfect athlete also knows there is a haven, as sometimes behind the smile and news articles about last night’s big win, life ain’t so grand for her either, and she knows that the health office is an OK place to be.
Amongst the headaches, sore throats, tummy aches, nosebleeds etc, there is the occasional broken heart. Broken from the long term absence of a dad they never knew, to the sudden disappearance of the man or woman who stood in for a number of years until the relationship with the now single parent, fell apart.
The long term impact is eye opening when you realize that you are on your second or third generation of kids in a family. Some family dynamics NEVER change. Some change for the better and sadly, some for the worse.
I personally have run into students years later who will ask me if I knew they really were not sick when they were in my office?! I put on a shocked face and say “No Way!!!” We usually have a good chuckle; get caught up where life has taken them. One of my former students was treated for ALL in middle school and she is now expecting her second child! That I am witness to see her grow into a healthy successful adult and wife and, especially a mom, in light of her chemotherapy treatments is heartwarming. I have also read about my students continued drug use and subsequent interaction with the law, and it hurts my heart even now. Back then, when we could have made a difference, but it was resisted by the child and family. It certainly was not for lack of trying.
Overall, if you are in this job long enough, you DO know the back story, and that can be so helpful when trying to make a positive impact. And when you start working with former students, who were friends of your child and they have a hard time calling you by your first name now that they are colleagues, you know you have been here a while, especially when they still see you as the confidant you were for them so many years ago.
We as school nurses have the ability to make a difference in our school and community, and I consider that a pretty awesome way to spend a career.
About NutmeggeRN, BSN, RN
School nurse in my 21st year in New England
Joined: Dec '11; Posts: 3,383; Likes: 7,494Mar 18, '15As a school nurse who has been around long enough to have students in my clinic who are children of previous students in my school..I say WELL DONE Nutmegge!Mar 19, '15I'm thinking when the 3rd generation shows up, it might be time to start framing the plan for retirement!!!Mar 24, '15I fell into the career choice of school nurse almost by accident. I truly believe I was placed in this opportunity by a higher power. I couldn't agree more with your article. School nurses like many other nurses do not get the recognition they so truly deserve. As blessed as I am to work in this field, I am honored to say that now I get to intrust my own son in the care of the School Nurse who took care of myself many years ago.Mar 25, '15Wonderful article. I work in a private, special needs elementary school and as much as I love working with these children, I'm frustrated because of the lack of resources. I begged for bandaids and alcohol swabs and bandages....nothing. (I've been buying my own supplies but those self adhesive bandages and ice packs add up!) I've requested a bean bag for students to rest......nothing. I have no budget and wait for it.....no office. I'm in a corner near the staff restroom with my desk, mini cabinet, mini fridge and a straight back chair for a sick student. Sometimes, I feel that the school just has a nurse to keep parents of their back. Still, I go above and beyond because I'm doing this for the kids but come September......going...going..gone! Keep up the good work, school nurses!Mar 25, '15Great article !!! Public health and especially school nursing is my calling and my dream job since I began nursing!Mar 26, '15Thx for the kind words, I truly love my job (most days LOL!) and the kids are amazing, most days! I fell into it quite by accident and it is my passion!
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