VNC nurse profile.
Title: School Nurse
Place of Employment: Rutland City School District
I had started my nursing career in 1973 as a pediatric nurse after receiving my B.S. from the University of Vermont. I completed my M.S. in nursing at the Pennsylvania State University while practicing rehabilitation nursing in Pennsylvania. I am nationally certified as a school nurse and as a rehabilitation nurse. My background in rehabilitation nursing, with its focus on chronic illness and physical disabilities, has been extremely applicable to my school nursing practice.
What Population do you serve?
I am the school nurse for Rutland High School, Stafford Technical Center, and the Success School. I work with one wonderful colleague, Karen Jakubowski, RN. We provide health services to about 1550 school students. Almost all of these students are of high school age, although the Success School has students from kindergarten through high school. We also serve as a resource to faculty, staff, and families.
What does a typical day look like?
There is a structure that frames each day, but every day is different. I never know what the day will bring. Today, I spent time with a young man who has diabetes and twice today, he had blood glucose readings of 600 or more. In addition, I am working with the faculty and staff to provide support in the aftermath of a student suicide.
What do you do in your position?
We see about 100 students a day for "walk in" care; these visits peak upon arrival at school and mid-day. Questions arise regarding respiratory illnesses, abdominal distress, headache, sexuality issues, mental health concerns, and other topics. I am constantly alert to potential underlying issues--a school nurse needs excellent assessment skills. I recall the student coming in with a headache, who later shared that his real concern was his need for HIV testing.
I manage medications for students, participate in key team meetings, provide vision and hearing screenings, manage immunization records, report child abuse/neglect, work with the Department of Health in managing communicable disease, case manage students with disabilities. I also advocate for safe and healthy school environments. I am active in a district-wide indoor air quality initiative. I prepare, implement, communicate, and evaluate individual student care plans as indicated and act as a liaison between the school community, local healthcare providers, and local agencies.
I also manage emergent situations. These include mental health emergencies, anaphylactic reactions, diabetic issues, musculoskeletal injuries, lacerations, and other urgent/emergency situations. I provide support and education to parents via telephone and in person. The school nurse strengthens and facilitates the educational process by improving and protecting the health of students. School nurses help insure students' success in school by being advocates for health needs in the school setting and by helping the students stay healthy, by providing health care and accommodations to help them be in school.
Vermont School Nurses hold licenses as a registered nurse and as an educator (through the VT Department of Education) with a school nurse endorsement. Many Vermont School Nurses also hold the endorsement of a health educator, which gives the credentials to be health education teachers.
What is most rewarding about your role?
I love nursing and feel that I am truly making a difference in the lives of the adolescents that I work with. I believe that a school nurse can create change and make a difference in the lives of young people. For all the minor injuries, and the many "headaches," there are also the daily situations where we effectively assess, initiate appropriate interventions, and sometimes even save a life. My job is to help my students care for their own health, make healthy decisions, and help them access appropriate resources. Sometimes the school nurse is the one adult with whom they can connect, discuss problems and viable solutions, and maintain an ongoing positive relationship.
What is most challenging about your role?
Most challenging in the role of the school nurse is the isolation in which we practice. The school nurse is typically the only healthcare professional practicing in an educational setting.
Words of wisdom to others considering your field:
The school nurse needs to be confident in her/his skills and be a real champion of professional nursing practice. Specifically, the school nurse must be able to articulate to students, families, educational professionals, and the community how we help students to be successful in school and why only a professional nurse is qualified to manage the health services in this unique setting. School nurses need to be committed to maintaining competency and skills in a broad-based nursing practice, self-motivated, and focused on the healthcare needs of young people.
* Talk to the school nurses in your community--perhaps spend time with them.
* National Association of School Nurses, www.nasn.org,
* Vermont State School Nurses' Association, www.vssna.org.
* You can reach me at 802-770-1087 (work), 802-747-0569 (home), or annbannister@ earthlink.net.