Say Thanks to a School Nurse on May 8

In honor of National School Nurse’s Day, NEA Today spoke to 2012 Missouri ESP of the Year Carmen K. Hill. Hill is a tireless and dedicated school nurse working in the St. Louis, Missouri public school system.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I get in here at 6:45am and by a quarter to 8:00 I start giving out medications to the students who need them. Then I start seeing the sick students that have come to school from the bus or that were dropped off by their parents who insist they come to school anyway. Usually, between 12 and 2:00 I’ll see a bulk of students. I’ll fix up a lot of abrasions, especially if it’s a sunny day outside. I have to leave school no later than 3:15 to make it to my other job — I’m also a hospital nurse in the Intensive Care Unit.

What inspired you to be a school nurse?

First and foremost, I love children. I’ve been a hospital nurse for 37 years and a school nurse for 19 years, and I love to nurture in both the school and hospital setting—it’s part of my genetic makeup. I love to provide the hugs, encouragement and inspiration that some children need.

Why are nurses so important to the daily operations of a school?

There are lots of children who need encouragement and nurturing, who look for that hug, and nurses can provide that extra support. We also help bring community services into the school, such as dental and vision. Some children wouldn’t have access to them otherwise.

How are cutbacks making nurses’ work difficult?

Each year students’ hearing and vision were tested and their height and weight were taken. Now the school is no longer doing that, so we can’t track it or determine if there’s a problem. Also, because of budget cuts nurses have to share supplies and materials and hope there’s enough for all of us to go around.

How do these cuts affect the students?

Community programs won’t be as readily available as they were before to provide services for families at schools, and there are simply more and more students in need.

Video: School Nurse Carmen Hill