A day in the life of a school nurse isn't just about runny noses and stomach aches.
Kelly Skinner, the school nurse at Evans Elementary, tends to a cut finger on fifth-grader Tony Wolkow.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Most of it really is the kids coming to us, from the time they get off the bus for scraped knees, splinters, dispensing medicines and ice packs to the time they go home," Kelly Skinner, a school nurse at Evans Elementary School, said.
The nurses that ensure the safety and health of children at school will be honored today, which is National School Nurses Day, as part of National Nurses Week.
Tina Watson, a registered nurse and head school nurse of the Columbia County school system, said the role of a school nurse has changed during the past few decades. Now, the 16 nurses stationed at elementary schools and a part-time special education nurse monitor, dispense medication to and care for children with chronic medical illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, severe allergies, those being treated for cancer and special education students with multiple medical needs.
"There's over 20,000 kids in Columbia County schools, and we have a nurse watching over most of the kids," Watson said, adding that the same 16 nurses stationed at elementary schools are assigned middle and high schools to visit and manage as well.
Skinner, who spent two years as a nurse on University Hospital's oncology ward, came to the school system five years ago to be closer to her son in the fourth grade at Evans Elementary.
"It's really a little more relaxed," Skinner said, adding that the oncology ward showed her what is important in life. "You can give a little more one-on-one care with each individual student."
And school nurses see a lot of students, Watson said, adding that seeing 40 children a day for a variety of reasons is not a bad day.
In addition to dispensing medication and seeing to injuries, Watson said each nurse must keep abreast of medical developments and treatments on common illnesses such as ADHD and asthma. Nurses also prepare and update health-care plans for each student with any type of chronic illness, which directs administration and teachers to the child's treatment. They often work with hospitals and physicians, Watson said.
And today on School Nurses Day, the county's school nurses will not be sitting in a teachers lounge enjoying cake and punch, but will be furthering their knowledge by attending continuing education conferences on a variety of medical topics and new developments.
Even though the job keeps them busy, Watson and Skinner said they enjoy their job because of the children.
"We do it for the love of doing it ... We do it because of the kids. They love you, and you love them. The whole school is full of kids, and (the nurses) belong to them," Watson said.
During students' time in elementary school, the nurses teach wellness and safety programs about topics such as hand-washing and germs, bike and school-yard safety and human growth and development.
Even though she is prepared for the worst medical situations and the most serious illnesses, Skinner said the more common visitors to her office suffer from knee scraps, bug bites and rashes, she said.
"It's a wonderful job, it's very special," Skinner said. "I feel very privileged to be here."
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