The following post is via Rebecca Perzanowski, School Nurse at the FAIR School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I have been a school nurse for 7 years. I have the privilege of working with over a thousand Kindergarten through 12th graders in urban and suburban schools. Before becoming a school nurse I worked as a nurse in a few children’s hospitals. I enjoyed working with children and their families but these families were in crisis. This limited their ability to learn about their illness or condition and limited my ability to teach them about living a full life with these conditions. It dawned on me that School Nursing was the ideal opportunity to work with children and families in a learning environment and where I could assist them to realize their healthy lives with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, or severe allergies.
I went into school nursing with the intention of teaching children and families about living with chronic conditions. In return I have learned so many things from staff, teachers, families and kids. All children can benefit from learning about healthy living and prevention, not just the students with chronic health concerns. I try to use even my briefest encounters with my students to teach. I talk a lot about choices because in the end it is up to them. Choosing to eat breakfast could help a student with headaches and with learning. Choosing to avoid the recess game of football could help them heal from their ankle injury and prevent other injuries. Choosing not to drink alcohol should be part of their healthy lifestyle.
One of the most valuable things I have learned is how to listen to my students. The child may be talking about headaches or stomachaches but what they are really experiencing is anxiety. This is a time when teaching really presents itself. I would advise all parents and teachers to be aware of these opportunities, too. Listen beyond their words to their experiences and then use the opportunity to discuss healthy living and positive choices. Children are amazing and I know parents and teachers will find these moments of listening and sharing as rewarding as I do.