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School Nurses Need No “Just”-ification!

Nurse’s Week is upon us! Many of these national declarations come and go unnoticed by many of us, myself included! I am a registered nurse who works as a school nurse in the public school system. Understandably Nurse’s Week (May 5– 11) usually becomes overshadowed by Teacher’s Appreciation Week (May 5-9).



Few realize that Tuesday, May 6 is National School Nurse Day. For over 100 years, school nurses have provided affordable quality care, improved public health, and have helped to ensure students’ academic successes.

“On National School Nurse Day we acknowledge and appreciate school nurses’ role as an invaluable bridge that connects health care providers, public health and families. School nurses work with 95 percent of school-aged children and act as daily eyes and ears for children’s health,” said Linda Davis-Alldritt, MA, BSN, RN, FNASN, FASHA, National Association of School Nurses president.

School nurses are an integral member of the educational team! I’ve created a list of “just”-ifications for a school nurse’s presence in every school building based on the inspirational poem, Just a Nurse written by Suzanne Gordon.

1. The school nurse JUST makes the difference between life and death. S/he responds to anaphylactic reactions in those with severe food allergies, head injuries, asthma attacks and low blood sugar.

2. The school nurse JUST makes sure that kids stay healthy and safe so they can learn in school. She/he screens vision and hearing and ensures students are adequately immunized. S/he teaches proper hand washing, coughing etiquette and promotes healthy lifestyle choices.

3. The school nurse JUST deals with contagions on a daily basis…bacteria, barf and blood. S/he also has nitpicking expertise and can assist families in eradicating head lice and other pests such as bed bugs.

4. The school nurse JUST provides health care to under and non-insured students who are among our nation’s most vulnerable. At times, s/he may be a student’s only access to a health care provider. School nurses also help these families navigate the complex health care system.

5. The school nurse JUST makes it possible for children with chronic health needs to attend school. As many as 15-18% of children and adolescents have been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as diabetes, asthma or seizure disorders (Perrin, Bloom & Gortmaker, 2007).

6. The school nurse JUST helps teachers focus on the educational needs of students. Teachers are not trained to assess or care for health concerns, they are trained to educate.

7. The school nurse JUST increases school attendance rates and “seat time”. School nurses are much less likely to send home students than unlicensed personnel responsible for the health concerns in their absence. More time in the classroom provides more time for learning.

8. The school nurse JUST provides mental health support to those students with separation anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, etc. S/he works alongside school counselors, psychologists and social workers as part of the mental health team.

We, school nurses, JUST make a difference in the lives of children and adolescents every day! We lead the way in ensuring positive learning outcomes by positively influencing the health and well-being of students. We are among those who have ranked as the most trusted profession for the 11th consecutive year (Gallup 2012).

Read more from Phoebe Wulliman Graber on her blog, In Momopause

Phoebe Wulliman Graber

Phoebe Wulliman Graber writes about the newfound freedoms of the empty nest, books, mindfulness and aging on her blog, In Momopause. She is an unapologetic list maker, avid reader, lover of letters and travel. During any given day you may find her nit-picking...literally, as a school nurse or figuratively, because she's a perfectionist.

Sharon Kaltenberg

Tuesday 13th of May 2014

Thanks for this insightful column. Many people really don't understand the scope and difficulty of a school nurses job. I recently retired from nursing after 35 years, the last 18 as a district school nurse. I can honesty say they were the most challenging yet rewarding years of my career. The most rewarding achievement for me was receiving the 2013 Wisconsin School Nurse of the year award. Thanks again for this post.

Phoebe Wulliman Graber

Thursday 15th of May 2014

Wow! School Nurse of the Year...what an honor! It was for the very reason you mentioned that I decided to write a post about what it is we, school nurses, do day in and day out. Glad you spoke up and enjoy your retirement!

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