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Career Story: Small Town School Nurse

Small Town School Nurse

Job Title: School Nurse

Type of Company: I work in an elementary school (grades 3, 4 & 5) as a school nurse.

Education: BSN, Syracuse University

Previous Experience: I worked in medical-surgical hospital units for several years, then taught nursing for 10 years in Boston; I have been a school nurse since 1986. I was also Nurse Leader of my district union for 13 years.

Job Tasks: As the school nurse I'm responsible for protecting and enhancing the physical, mental, social and emotional wellness of the students and staff at my school and I'm the only one there who is qualified to make medical decisions. I believe in a systematic approach to problem-solving and in weighing a student's needs, treating him accordingly and keeping track of the outcome.

A major part of school nursing is working with the families of students and I often contact teachers and a student's private physician for more detailed information on the state of his health. Because healthcare and nursing are collaborative endeavors, I also stay in touch with community agencies and local healthcare systems.

A basic day for me often involves providing care for a child with a chronic disease, typically asthma. The child is having difficulty breathing or complains of a headache, stomach ache or sore throat. But just as often, too, I have to furnish first aid for the cuts and scrapes that children pick up at recess, and I will sometimes help a child with diabetes to test his glucose levels before lunch. I am called upon routinely to administer medication to a child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) so he can focus on his class work. I provide counseling to the child whose grandparent is dying; listen to the child whose father has just lost his job; provide first aid to the kitchen lady who has just cut her finger. Every day is different, and no day's ever boring.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is convincing a child to stay in school and finish the day, even when he's feeling sub par. It is rewarding to teach children about their bodies and their health and to watch them change their habits when they "get it."

The worst part is all the red tape: the paper forms I have to get from parents and doctors in order to give medication and provide treatment. I also dislike the enormous amounts of record-keeping that go along with the job: entering into the computer all the immunizations, eye & ear screening results, postural screening results, heights, weights and BMI statistics that the school district wants us to keep.

Job Tips: Get nursing experience in a hospital and keep up-to-date on the treatment of pediatric diseases, and especially chronic diseases. And if you're a parent, go to the PTO meetings, attend continuing ed classes on special needs education and volunteer in the nurse's office.

Additional Thoughts: Don't take school nursing lightly. It is not just cuts an d scrapes. I am dealing with children with life-threatening allergies, children with cancer, children with depression. You can be a vital link in teaching a child how to stay healthy physically, emotionally and socially.

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