A School Nurse of Distinction

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We sat in a ‘support group’ shortly after her diagnosis.  The parents at the meeting looked mostly sleep deprived and concerned.  A few smiled only when you smiled first.  The topic was Supporting Your Child With T1D At School: What you need to know.  I thought ‘Okay, this is an important topic’.  I normally talk, a lot, but in these meetings I think its helpful to just listen.  Most of the families have been dealing with this condition far longer than we have and we have a steep learning curve.  So, “shut up and listen”, I say to myself.  One parent sat with her arms crossed and said, “Our school nurse is terrible, absolutely terrible.”  She went on to describe how the nurse wouldn’t touch her daughter’s insulin pump and didn’t provide the basic care her daughter’s condition required.  This challenge drove her to write letters to the principal and superintendent, even the school board.  At one point, and rightfully so, she said incredulously “I mean, her care can mean life or death for my daughter”.  She was definitely not kidding about that, although not a likelihood, totally within the realm of possibility.  As I sat there, I just kept thinking “Our school nurse is nothing like that”.  Our partnership with her is personal. In fact, she learned how to use A’s pump before we did.  She texted me and said she had downloaded the manual and was ready and excited that we were moving in this direction as she knew it would improve the quality of A’s life.    This is the same nurse, that had us put the Dexcom share app on her personal phone so she had her numbers while she is at school.  She goes so far as to allow substitute nurses to call her when she is out, even when sick, to make sure A is okay.  This very same nurse who has worked tirelessly to educate the educators in the building and fight for a wellness policy in the school that took all students’ needs into consideration.

I’m passionate about what this woman means to my child.  She understands my sweet one’s personality, her sense of humor and how to uplift her.  Most importantly, she won’t accept anything but what is right for A.  I would categorize our relationship as something in between aligned partnership and unhealthy attachment (on A’s part, not hers).  For example, recently I came home in the evening and asked A how her day was.  She sat at the kitchen table looking sad.  I looked her in her eye and said “I can tell something is bothering you.  Spill it.”  She replied.  “The nurse was out today” and looked down at her hands.  Not having her nurse around impacted A.

I sincerely hope that our school nurse is not an anomaly.  She is exemplary and believe me, I don’t over exaggerate when I say that.  Every child with a medical condition needing attention in school, not just T1D,  deserves a school nurse who will support them as completely as ours does.  We don’t thank her nearly as much as we should, but are so grateful to have her.  Here’s to our school nurse, who is in fact, a nurse of distinction!   You’ve set the bar high for the next school nurse.

2 thoughts on “A School Nurse of Distinction”

  1. Another great post, Mom! Your school nurse sounds like she definitely is a nurse of distinction. As a former school nurse, the number of students with T1D in a student population is still low. The other school nurse may have several other students with complex medical conditions that are keeping her from adding pump management to her wheel-house. That isn’t an excuse, but with all the different pumps on the market and they all have different operations, not to mention throwing in a CGM, Oy vey! Even new grad nurses are not exposed to pumps because it is still not a normal treatment device. However, I feel for the other Mom but as her child’s advocate, going up the ladder hootin’ and hollerin’ will only make things worse and will covertly put a label on her child because of her behavior. The solution to any problem is to identify the reason the problem exists. Find out why the nurse is resistant to learning about the pump, etc. Go on from there. Remember, nurses, even school nurses, are humans. A lot of people think that a person who is a school nurse must not be capable of working in a hospital so this is where they end up. That is so far from the truth!
    You are fortunate however to have the nurse you have. There are many school districts across the country that are eliminating school nurses in favor of having cluster nurses. A cluster nurse is a school nurse who covers multiple schools. In their place is a medicine aide who is trained to administer medication and first aid. This includes administering insulin and glucagon! IN Maryland, we are fortunate in that if a child has T1D ther has to be a nurse on site to provide care. The legislature is still trying to get nurses out of the schools and further the cluster nurse concept. Recently, a child with asthma,who was in status asthmaticus, a life threatening state, died because the nurse was out and the policy stated that in the absence of the nurse the school principal was the only person authorized to call 9-1-1. In the time it took someone to decide that that was an asinine policy and picked up the phone, the child died. As parents, you need to be aware the school’s policy regarding the care students with diabetes, etc. receive or don’t. It is sad that common sense isn’t allowed anymore.
    Kudos to your school nurse. She has a supervisor. Please let them know. Perhaps you could suggest, if your nurse is agreeable, that she have a Diabetes 101 refresher CEU class for the area school nurses.
    Peace+ Tim aka “DiabetesDude”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and your unique perspective. Nurses play such an important role, especially in schools and I respect their work. I think that nurse training for the environment they are working in is important. Either way with T1D parents have to partner with the school nurse to make it work. I’m so fortunate to have a great one and you are right! I should let her supervisor know.

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