A SCHOOL NURSE! There are a lot of “Keep Calm” ideas out there currently – on bumper stickers, mugs, T-shirts. I just saw one a couple weeks ago that said “Keep Calm – I am a Princess.” Well, I choose Princess! If only I could be in line to rule a kingdom rather than . . .
A Day in the Life of a School Nurse
It can be exhilarating, exhausting, funny, crazy, but it is NEVER boring. I’ve wanted to be a school nurse since my now-35-year-old son started kindergarten. I thought it was just a pipe dream because these positions don’t come open very often—good hours, summers off (well, that may be changing due to year round schooling and balanced calendars)—not a bad gig. I began a position as an elementary school nurse 5 years ago after many years of “other” kinds of nursing. The job doesn’t pay too well, but the rewards in hugs, smiles, art projects, cards, and funny stories are priceless!
As an example: The other day I was completing an accident report on a little girl who tripped in her classroom:
Me: “So your friend said you were skipping in the classroom and fell into a bookshelf. Is that what I should write on the accident report?”
My little eight-year old patient: “Well….actually, it was more like “sashaying.” (Said with all the seriousness a little ballerina could muster as she lay on my clinic bed with a swollen cheek.)
Me: “I think I’ll just write skip. I don’t know how to spell sashay!” (I really didn’t. I had to look it up. I’ve never taken a ballet lesson in my life.)
Amidst all the chronic health conditions, boo-boos, emergencies, and chaos, there are also a lot of fun and great stories!
Chronic health conditions have escalated in children over the last decade. A school nurse has to wear many hats and provide services that used to be primarily reserved for the family doctor. Some days, I’m an optometrist doing vision screenings. Some days I’m a pulmonologist, monitoring a student’s oxygen level to see if an inhaler is needed. Then there are the broken bones (ER nurse or orthopedic doctor), dental injuries (dentist), possible concussions (neurologist) . . . I could go on.
This is not to take away from any of these noble and much needed medical professions, but largely, a school nurse works independently and has to make critical decisions every day on his/her own. In any given day, you are dealing with students with life-threatening food allergies who have Epi-Pens, students with moderate to severe asthma, children who are being diagnosed younger and younger with diabetes partially due to the huge rise in overweight/obesity in our country, and students with severe disabilities that come to school with seizure disorders or feeding tubes.
This job is never glorious, but it’s fulfilling. As we all celebrate National Nurses’ Week and specifically School Nurse Day on May 6, don’t forget to say just a little thank you to that man or woman who does way more than just applying Bandaids. “Keep Calm!” and be thankful if you have a School Nurse.
Leisa Prasser is a Registered Nurse who has worked in an elementary school in Crawfordsville, Indiana for the last five years. Before taking that position, Leisa worked in public health at both the local and state levels for eight years and has a background in public health preparedness, pediatrics, OB, and cardiology. She is a certified CPR instructor for the American Heart Association. Leisa is the current President of the Indiana Association of School Nurses.