Calm. Down.

I think the vast majority of us on this planet – or perhaps just those with first world “problems” – need to take a chill pill. Most of the time, we are not in a life or death emergency, and even if we are, freaking out about it won’t do anyone any good. I may not be saving the world as a school nurse, but the least I can do is calm people down.

When a student came into the office sobbing after lunch, and when his friends said he “collapsed” in the cafeteria saying his head hurt, I was not surprised when the secretary came to get me. The other aide in the office whose position I have not figured out (a secretary for the secretary, it appears), reported the student’s temperature as 101.7, while the secretary anxiously exclaimed, “They said he didn’t hit his head, I don’t know what happened!” It took about 1 minute for me to interview the kiddo and discover that, besides his fever, he hadn’t eaten since the day before. Hmm. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist, or even a school nurse, to figure out why his head was hurting. Still, I had to spell out to the secretary, who watched over my shoulder as I assessed the student, “He needs to go home. He’s sick.” As in, close your gaping mouth, this is not an emergency, let’s move on with our day, he’ll be fine.

I know some of her worry comes from the lovely ladies and gentleman at the district office following a threatened, or perhaps real, lawsuit related to a first aid incident at the school earlier this year. (My own perspective on that: someone’s wanting money and the school is not at fault.) But seriously, folks. It’s a fever. Kid hasn’t eaten. He has a headache. Calm down. 

I am often amazed that I am paid to dispense common sense. 


Life with a Toddler

Because my life doesn't revolve around work anymore...We were getting ready for the library one afternoon, and I explained to my daughter she would need to put some pants on so we could go. I helped put her pants on after snack, at which point the tantrum erupted. “NO PANTS!” She dissolved into tears, and as I tried to explain why she needed the pants, she flung herself on the ground in a screaming mess. I tried without success to comfort her, and, feeling my own temper rise, I decided to take a break from it all in another room. She followed me, after she took off her pants in the other room, still crying, “NO PANTS.” Then, as suddenly as a light turns on or off, she asked for “cuddles.” So, we cuddled, and I again explained that to go to the library, she needed to be wearing pants. I asked if she wanted to wear a different pair of pants and heard, “Yes. Blue!” She happily put on the blue pants, and off we went to the library.

At the library we read a book about a duck. She seemed interested, and I told her we could take it home, but she said, “no.” Several times over the course of the library visit she picked up the duck book again, but every time I offered to check it out, she said “no.” We went home, opened the door, and I hadn’t even set my keys down before she asked, “duck?” She broke down in tears when I said the duck book was still at the library.



Happy Endings

There was a situation just before break that my LVN called me about: a student that gets migraines did not have any medication at school, and “just FYI, you may want to contact the parent about it.” In hindsight, she clearly knew something I didn’t, because when I emailed the parents, the father had already been made aware of the situation and was FURIOUS about it.

There’s good and bad to having this correspondence by email. On the plus side, I didn’t have to have an immediate response and could craft my response to him slowly. On the other hand, it’s in my inbox, and able to be re-read whenever. In a phone call, I may not respond with the exact verbiage I’d want to later, but at least it’d be over as soon as I hung up.

Anyway, craft I did. There was more to it than the student not having medication: supposedly she had turned in a medication form earlier in the year, and supposedly she had asked to call home and the office hadn’t let her. I wasn’t on site when this transaction occurred, but still had to play the messenger: contact the office, get their side of the story, etc. It was enough to give me a headache. To top it off, this dad was sure to leave in his email signature that he has a higher degree in education than me.

He didn’t respond and I dreaded what would happen the next time the student had a headache.

Fast forward to this week, when I reached out to him and asked if there was anything else I could do for his daughter (implying, ahem, that he still had not turned in the proper paperwork and we were still waiting on the medication to be left at the office). I dreaded the “new email” ping on my computer, and instead was relieved to find this from him:

Dear [Mrs. Nurse]:

Thank you very much for your note, for following up, and for your empathy. I am most touched by your commitment and professionalism. 

I will take care of this as soon as possible. 


[Dr. Dad]”

It often feels rare that I get an angry parent to come down from his soapbox. I’ll take it where I can get it.


Welcome, 2016!

The first day back from winter break, I was scheduled to cover for an LVN’s assignment – part at my school and part at a school foreign to me. (This was a result of the fact that our work was sponsoring a conference, unrelated to the medical field, for those interested. I didn’t feel like it was worth the cost of what they wouldn’t be covering for the trip, so I passed.) The day was to involve four diabetics of varying independence levels and a G-tube feeding, which I haven’t done alone…um…ever. I tagged along with the LVN on her assignment in December to meet the kiddos while trying to ignore the fact that I had somehow volunteered to do this assignment despite the fact that a) RNs in our district are not supposed to have to cover for LVNs (a breach of contract, I’ve learned!) and b) the middle and high schools were scheduled for a “work day” without students, meaning at least a handful of LVNs had nothing to do the day I would be covering this assignment. But I digress. I met the kiddos, was reminded how to do a G-tube feeding, and then went into winter break with a small cloud over my head reminding me that my first day back I’d be covering in uncharted territory, and our lead nurse, supervisor, and every other veteran RN I knew were on a work trip.

It was a dark and stormy day, literally, and I hoped for many absences to make my day easier. Not my luck: all the students I needed to see made it to school. The day went by in a blur and I loved it. I remembered that I really do enjoy what I do sometimes. I taught a first grader how to change her lancet, and she said, “Thank you! I didn’t know how to do that before.” How much better can a job be? The G-tube feeding was for a second grader who chatted happily with me the entire time about the puppy she is getting next month. I was told if you don’t keep her distracted, she complains she’s full and tries to stop the feeding early; instead, I had to remind her it was over and time to go back to class, and she asked to see me again. And, once more, how much better can a job be?

Unfortunately, that job was covering someone else’s job. She’s an RN herself working as an LVN, and she told me when I met her she didn’t want my job…I know why. I get paid a ridiculous hourly rate for what I do, can work from home sometimes, and have all the holidays off, and I still don’t think that is enough anymore. The longer I’m a school nurse, particularly after finishing the credential program – in which I became convinced every other district has similar problems, the less sure I am that I want to do this any longer. I tossed out a couple of resumes last month to see what the job market was like and was 2 for 2 on interview requests. I declined because I’m not ready to break my contract just yet, but it was good feedback. When I originally became a school nurse, I didn’t feel I had other options and just needed a job; now, I have options and am not sure I’ll be staying here for eternity…or the next school year. (Which I’ve said for five years now, and then summer break comes along and I suddenly have amnesia about any of the problems in this job.)