I've removed my family pictures from the wall and taken home my nameplate. As much as I've loved my job, it is clearly time for me to go. As I head into retirement, I thought I’d take a page from David Letterman's playbook. I present to you my own "Top 10 Things Necessary for School Nursing to Work," based upon my 25 years as a nurse in the School District of Philadelphia.
A superintendent like former boots-on-the-ground leader, fellow Philadelphian, and educator par excellence Dr. Constance Clayton, who was driven by the needs of children rather than by data. Data, as you know, can prove whatever you want it to prove.
Education pundits often toss the phrase “high-quality schools” around like footballs. Soon everyone and their sister or brother uses it, from universities to the media. They jump on the bandwagon of “high-quality schools," as if such a term can be defined by numbers on a spreadsheet.
From my 25 years of experience, many things other than numbers determine a school's quality. And those things must all be fulfilled before that phrase can even be put on the table.
I had never thought about school nursing until a friend told me about an opening at Germantown Academy, the prestigious private school where she worked. I had four children, and working in labor and delivery during the night and on weekends in a hospital had become a nightmare. As a school nurse, I would have the same schedule as my children. An added perk: They could attend the school tuition-free. I was psyched.
I didn’t get the job. At first, I was disappointed. The specter of endless night shifts loomed again. But then another friend told me about public school nursing in Philadelphia. Since I lived in the city, I took the test in the fall of 1989 and began work the following January.
It was the best career choice I ever made. I've loved every day I spent as a school nurse.
In his four years of being in high school, Terrell was never sick. So when he showed up in the nurse's office at 8:30 a.m. on a half-day, I knew something was really wrong.
Terrell said his stomach really, really hurt. Juice and crackers for hunger pains and a trip to the bathroom for what I like to call “a morning constitutional” typically cure the vast majority of in-school stomachaches. But not this time. Terrell had a stomach virus and he needed to go home.
There is no magical cure that can be offered in school that will make a student with a stomach virus or the flu well enough to remain in school and concentrate on his/her studies. School nurses are trained to recognize the severity of illnesses and injuries and to treat or refer according to their assessment. Thus, school nurses need to be regarded as the backbone of the health delivery system to our schoolchildren.
Four long years of war took the lives of 97 Roxborough graduates. Every time I walk up the steps of the marble hall in Roxborough High School, I lightly touch a metal plaque that honors those who gave their lives for their country during World War II.
The grand hall, the centerpiece of the Art Deco-style public schools built in Philadelphia in the 1920s, rises two stories, its walls covered by paintings in gilt frames. Two magnificent curved staircases lead to the second floor, where the plaque honoring the dead faces a window that sometimes blazes with sunlight. The hall is quiet in comparison to the rest of the building, giving it the feeling of a shrine. A fitting place to honor the dead.