There is no typical day for a school nurse. Overseeing the medical needs of a building filled with staff and students will bring surprises. It can be as simple as handing out an ice pack to calling 911 for medical assistance. “You never know what’s going to come through that door,” Rebecca Proctor, school nurse at Westlake High School, said.
School Nurse Day is Wednesday, May 11. The day was established to foster a better understanding of the role of school nurses in schools, according to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). The week of May 6-12 is recognized as National Nurses Week with inclusion of National School Nurse Day introduced in 2003, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Stacey Makle, the school nurse at General Smallwood Middle School, worked as an OB-GYN nurse, then in sales before going into school nursing. “I wanted to stay connected to nursing. Smallwood is the first school I landed at, and I love it,” she said. “Middle schoolers are very interesting. There are a lot of teachable moments in middle school. School nursing is totally different than what I thought it would be.”
There can be a misconception about what school nurses do, Proctor said. “We’re not just here to fix boo-boos,” she said. “We are real nurses and are here to do more than hand out Band-Aids … although we do that too.” Makle said there is hardly a down moment in the day. “You’re always busy,” she said.
School nurses help students with chronic illnesses navigate the school day. Depending on the needs of a child, a school nurse can be called on to assist a student who depends on a feeding tube to caring for those who have diabetes, a seizure disorder, asthma or other medical concerns. Then there are the everyday injuries that require attention, along with stomachaches and headaches.
When school buildings were closed to students to slow the spread of COVID-19, many school nurses — CCPS employs nurses through the Charles County Department of Health and those who are agency nurses — manned a COVID-19 hotline. School nurses were also onsite for the first COVID vaccine clinics held at Regency Furniture Stadium, quickly becoming friends with members of the military who were also working at the clinics.
Nurses also had to hold down the fort back at their schools. “While there were minimal students physically in building, administrative duties that included immunization compliance and physical records review were happening across the county in each health room,” Peggy Bird, supervising school nurse, said.
The CCPS school nurse program was piloted during the 1996-97 school year at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School. The following year, 26 nurses covered 31 school sites. By 2000, all schools and centers in CCPS had a school nurse.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,000 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).