HER Health

ScHool nuRSE’S day nEvER STopS

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by Lind­sey Wells Pho­tog­ra­phy by Richard Ras­mussen

It’s a pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment that the value of a school­teacher is of­ten over­looked. The same can be said about school nurses.

Cur­rent Arkansas law re­quires one nurse for every 750 stu­dents in a school district. With around 1,450 stu­dents en­rolled in the Foun­tain Lake School District, Reg­is­tered Nurse Amy Graves and the LPN she su­per­vises are hard-pressed to achieve all of their daily tasks be­fore the fi­nal bell rings.

This is Graves’ 12th year as a pe­di­atric nurse. She ob­tained her bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Science and Nurs­ing from Arkansas Tech Univer­sity. She is go­ing into her fifth con­tract year as a nurse at Foun­tain Lake this year and she also works in the in­pa­tient unit at Arkansas Hospice.

“I started work­ing at Arkansas Hospice be­cause I had never re­ally worked with adults a whole lot and I thought,

‘This will be fun,’ and it is. I love it. I’ve helped ba­bies come into the world and now I’ve helped peo­ple leave the world, so I’ve been on both ends of the spec­trum. They’re just very re­ward­ing jobs.

“At school I kind of hit the floor run­ning most days. Usu­ally there are al­ready kids wait­ing on me who have just got­ten off the bus, or their par­ents just dropped them off not feel­ing good, or they’ve al­ready got­ten hurt out­side or are hav­ing dif­fi­culty breath­ing. We start off pretty quick al­ready in the morn­ings,” she said.

A typ­i­cal day for Graves be­gins with blood sugar checks at 9 a.m. for the chil­dren with di­a­betes and ad­min­is­ter­ing morn­ing-time med­i­ca­tion to those who take them. Things pick up around lunchtime with blood sugar checks, carb-count­ing, blood sugar corrections with in­sulin, and more med­i­ca­tion ad­min­is­ter­ing.

Lunchtime re­cess usu­ally brings in the chil­dren who suf­fer from asthma and are hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing. By 1 p.m., lunchtime meds are ad­min­is­tered and Graves said things start to slow down around 2 p.m.

Every par­ent, teacher and nurse knows that stu­dents don’t schedule their emer­gen­cies or their sick­nesses. Graves said the nurses typ­i­cally see around 100-120 stu­dents per day for first aid, not in­clud­ing the reg­u­larly sched­uled visits.

“The kids that are com­ing to school are def­i­nitely sicker now than they used to be, so we’re ac­com­mo­dat­ing that. You can come to school now and get ev­ery­thing you need and be a lit­tle on the higher end of acu­ity. You know, have more needs but still come to school and we’re go­ing to get you what you need health care-wise, whereas be­fore, those kids just had to stay home,” said Graves.

“I think school nurs­ing is grow­ing a lot as far as what we’re do­ing to take care of these kids, and there’s not as much as there should be, but there is more aware­ness than there used to be for kids’ health care needs in a school. We have quite a few health care needs in our district.”

This re­duces the need for par­ents to leave work or home to pick up a sick child from school.

For safety rea­sons, school nurses are not al­lowed to give stu­dents any over-the-counter med­i­ca­tions with­out a doc­tor’s note and signed par­ent per­mis­sion, Graves said.

“That’s mostly be­cause a lot of peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that those drugs could in­ter­act with some­thing that they al­ready may be tak­ing at home. To me, if you come in a whole lot need­ing Ibupro­fen for headaches or some­thing, your par­ent needs to take you to the doc­tor any­way be­cause there’s some­thing go­ing on that needs to be checked out,” she added.

Though she isn’t al­lowed to treat those stu­dents with over-the-counter med­i­ca­tion, Graves said she calls par­ents all the time to let them know what’s go­ing on at school.

“We check to make sure they’re eat­ing lunch, or are they sleep­ing good at night, or is there some­thing else go­ing on that we need to be aware of. If it hap­pens at the same time of day, maybe they’re hav­ing a hard time in that class and they’re just want­ing out of the class,” Graves said. “I’ll just talk to them and try to fig­ure out what we can do, or, if they are hav­ing headaches, fig­ure out what we can do to take care of it. If they’re just hav­ing a hard time in class and they need a pick-me-up, I pat them on the back and say, ‘I know you’re hav­ing a rough day, let’s see if we can hang in there.’ But I like to make sure that there’s noth­ing wrong first.”

Graves re­called some of her stu­dents who were newly di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes and said it’s ex­tremely im­por­tant for her to make the stu­dents’ par­ents feel com­fort­able about leav­ing their chil­dren in her care. She takes the time to call the par­ents, es­pe­cially the first day back to school af­ter a di­ag­no­sis, to check in through­out the school day.

“At the end of the year par­ents will tell me, ‘ We’re so glad you helped us with this.’ You re­ally feel like you’re mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. It to­tally makes ev­ery­thing that doesn’t ever go right worth it. The kids are awe­some and they teach me so much too,” she said.

... I’ve helped ba­bies come into the world and now I’ve helped peo­ple leave the world, so I’ve been on both ends of the spec­trum. They’re just very re­ward­ing jobs.

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