Duly noted

When it was over 100 degrees outside and I was inside my office roasting with a very poor functioning a/c unit, I didn't consider the converse. Weather.com shows me it is 45 outside with a "feels like" of 39 degrees. It is my scientific opinion that it "feels like" 39 degrees in my office too. I'm going to have to start wearing long johns to work.

Also, just overheard in the hallway: "I farted." Kindergarteners are so cute.


I've been uncomfortably surprised by the number of Christmas cards I have received at work, mostly due to their religious intonation. I work for the government, can't we keep this stuff away from work? Anyway, one in particular made me smile: "Nurse Erin - Thanks for taking care of our kids!" Signed by the principal. I don't think the principal at my middle school even knows my name, and this is the second time I've had a handwritten note of appreciation from this one. There's a reason I make an effort to be here two full days a week.

Bon voyage

My first semester as a school nurse comes to an end today, and I’m ending it sick, exhausted, and optimistic. It’s been a real shock to work with the clientele that I do, a population drastically different than anything I encountered growing up. Unlike the nurse on the good side of town, who laments to me the way parents detail the differences between tree nuts and peanuts to her, I have been yelled at for interrupting someone’s day when I call home at 10 a.m. to find out the severity of a nut allergy listed on an emergency card. I have mailed home over 50 hearing and vision referrals and have only received follow-up evaluation notice once. More come back as a “return to sender” because they’re no longer on the address listed on the emergency card (that was just filled out in August) than that. So few come back that I finally stopped keeping a list of what I’d mailed out; it’s too depressing. I’ve learned I’m expected to know everything, and I’ve learned it’s not the end of the world when I don’t.



This morning at my middle school, the cutest little trembling sixth grader entered my office. He told me he's in the AVID program - I'm still not exactly sure what it is, but I think the "good" kids are in AVID - and they've been assigned to ask "someone like a doctor or something" to talk to the AVID class about their career. I don't have a clue what that entails or what to say, but sign me up! How sweet! 

It almost makes up for the fact that my office has an overpowering stench of dead rats in it. Apparently maintenance figured out there was a major rat problem above the ceiling and poured a bunch of rat poison. I can say it killed them for sure, and the odor is permeating the buildings while they consider how to remove the dead animals. Yay.


My reputation precedes me

This weekend, 140 miles from work, the guy at the ski rental counter recognized my address and asked what I did for a living. "I'm a school nurse," I said, "I work in the ghetto." I know there are worse neighborhoods in the world, but for most people I encounter in the real world, it's fair to say that about my schools. He asked the name of the middle school, and when I told him, his eyes lit up with recognition. He said that he got mixed in with the wrong crowd growing up, and that was the school the troublemakers attended. As he adjusted the bindings, I could tell he was still thinking about what I do and where... "So you must get a lot of fights, huh?"



What we've got here is a failure to communicate.

Perhaps this is just a sign of my aging, but seriously, where are kids’ manners these days? When kids come in demanding an ice pack forgetting their p’s and q’s, unless there is an active emergency, I remain at my desk and tell them I can’t hear them.  Nobody’s teaching manners at home, so I try to teach them while I still can. The other day I had a sick girl already on the cot when a boy entered and I said, “What can I do for you, sir?” Suddenly the girl had energy, shot up and screeched, “You should have called me lady! You called him sir, that isn’t fair!” Excellent attention to detail, young lady, but she quieted down when I reminded her she was sick… and that she hadn’t addressed me as ma’am, either.

This week I saw child restraints for the first time. The kid was screaming so loud I began to wonder if I could later file for workman’s comp when I become hard of hearing because of it while he was being pinned by a resource teacher. Something had set him off, and after he spit in several kids’ faces and bit his teacher, they caught him for fear of further harm and destruction and brought him into my office. Twenty minutes later, he finally exhausted himself to the point of silence. All this, and the kid is only in first grade. Imagine what problems he has to come. 


You know you're a nurse when...

Having a student puking into the trash can in your office doesn't faze you - or detract from the delicious apple munching experience you're having at the moment.

What's gross anymore? I don't even notice.

All in a day's work

This morning I was called at an ungodly hour by one of my schools (okay, 7:15). It was the school I had been at yesterday, and left early for an appointment (really). I was hesitant to answer: I decided either someone was dead, or I was completely disoriented and was perhaps supposed to be at work at that time, and maybe even had the days of the week wrong and was supposed to be at that school. Nope, they just needed me to swing by on my way to another school in order to identify an assortment of pills. A student had been caught with a bottle of random pills, and they wanted to see if they were actually the allergy pills she claimed them to be. I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story decoding what turned out to be the Ovaltine message. One by one, I looked them up, and every single one of them was disappointing: some form of an antihistamine, an over the counter cold remedy drug; the most interesting was an herbal diet pill. It was terribly anticlimactic. Also, yes, I know anyone with the ability to type and use a search engine could have done this, but people apparently have an aversion to touching pills.

I get asked a lot what I do during the day, and the answer is I don't know. There really is no such thing as a typical day, as I'm reminded so often, and a lot of my day is hoping for and then dealing with surprises like the one above.


It's not as bad as it looks

There's a crew of substitute secretaries that fill in at the various schools when the regulars are gone. [Side note: secretaries appear to have the highest rate of absence of any position I have ever seen. Where do they even get all that sick time?] As time goes on, I'm starting to get to know a few of them, but today I met a new one. She was very sweet, your typical semi-retired elderly woman, and took a break in my office to find out my story - people are always fascinated as to how I came to be a school nurse at my age. We got to chatting about the district, and she mentioned a couple of other schools, describing them as "unbelievable" with a lot of eye-rolling. No surprise, the two unbelievables she mentioned were my two other schools. When I told her this, she just looked at me and clucked, "Bless you little thing."

And about my schools: One is an elementary school in a terrible neighborhood, one that I have specifically been told by several individuals to leave by nightfall (not that I'd have any reason to be here after dark) for fear of violence. This school has the most orderly students, and is the best performing. Another school is an elementary school in a bad neighborhood, with terribly performing and out of control students. The third is a middle school in the same bad neighborhood also with terribly performing and out of control students. What sets the one elementary school apart? Why are the kids better behaved, and why do they do so much better academically, despite being in an even worse neighborhood economically? I don't know, but it's been fantastic to have been so pleasantly surprised by the environment. Lesson: don't judge a neighborhood by its cover.

District Office, take note

"Non-health professionals are usually not effective health service managers." - The New School Health Handbook, 3rd ed.


Friday Randoms

Today I pulled up to my school and parked behind a car with a license plate holder: "My other ride is my wife." Only in this neighborhood would I consider this perfectly normal.

Everything happens to me. The number of times I tell another nurse what happened at my school that I hear a "Wow, I've never seen that before" is becoming ridiculous - and this is coming from nurses that have been in the district for a decade or longer. This week never-seen-befores included an injury necessitating a wheelchair (my second!), the bleeding eye poke, and HFMD - see below.

HFMD: Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. One of my students was out sick with it, prompting me to become an expert so I could sound semi-competent when I talk with the secretaries about it. The discussion turned into an excellent dialogue, and since it was via email, there were no ears to overhear me saying it how it is: wash your hands, don't swim in poop, and you'll be fine. Usually.

This brings me to my next point. I'm all for the good germ theory, that it takes some to build up resistance, but I am also pro-hand hygiene. And, since becoming a nurse, I've decided hand hygeine is incredibly underrated. My offices are all connected to a bathroom that staff can use. One in particular has a noisy sink and paper towel dispenser, so I always know when people have washed their hands. The number of people - adults - that leave without washing their hands is nothing short of utterly disgusting. Another office of mine has a toilet only, so to wash hands users need to come back into my main office. Further, I face the bathroom door and sink there: I know who comes and goes and it's right in front of my face when someone stops to wash their hands. Interestingly, not a single person leaves without washing. Would more people in the first office wash their hands if I turned my desk around and they had to face me as they left? I don't want to know.


One small step

It's a start. Also, how much does the kid in the picture look like the kid in A Christmas Story?

Expect the unexpected.

Today a boy came in with a bleeding sclera (the white part of your eye) after being poked in the eye with a pencil. He was walking around as though he was fine but OUCH! I've seen a lot of eye pokes, but nothing near a severity invoking bleeding. Thank goodness I've been here a few months now and can call a parent with confidence about this kind of situation; I'm even more thankful for the mother that came to pick him up. She was one of the most gracious parents I've ever encountered (not saying much, but still, it's appreciated); thanking me over the phone and even more profusely in person - just for being here! How nice.

Not coincidentally, this incident happened in a previously mentioned completely out-of-control classroom. Teachers, please, control your students.

How cute.

My middle school secretaries gave me a lanyard for my ID badge that has the school's name and colors on it, just as all the students and employees wear. I've had more than one kid at my elementary schools as if I go to school there now. Apparently to the second graders I look like a seventh grader. I'm also puzzled by the number of girls who come in for an ice pack and leave telling me how "cute" I look. Thanks?