Sure, they check temperatures, treat minor scrapes and cuts and ensure that medications are taken on time, but the role of nurses in today’s public schools entails a lot more than thermometers, band-aids and stethoscopes.
Today, school nurses are educators, advocates and community health partners who help address the physical, mental, emotional and social needs of their students and school staff.
Comal ISD employs registered nurses on each of its campuses, and they serve as the bridge between education and health, often connecting students and families to health and social services in the community.
“There is so much more to being a school nurse than ice packs and band-aids,” says Catriona Salter, R.N., from Indian Springs Elementary. “We have to be knowledgeable about many medical conditions; and we must be prepared to handle emergencies as the sole medical professional on campus.”
In fact, as the eyes and ears of public health, school nurses are on the front line of the health care system. They provide annual vision and hearing testing along with health services that both prevent and treat illnesses which help students stay healthy and in school.
While the school nurse’s role varies slightly depending on the grade level, elementary, middle or high school, one of the attractions of nursing is its diversity.
“The great thing about being a school nurse is each day is different,” says Salter, who has been a nurse in Comal ISD for nine years. “A typical day usually involves visits from my students who need first aid or an illness assessment and communicating with parents and staff concerning potential illnesses in a class. I love building relationships with the students and their families.”
In middle schools, nurses continue to administer screenings, make health assessments and communicate with parents and staff, with a little more student teaching involved.
“School nurses keep children healthy, safe and ready to learn,” says Rhonda Jahns, R.N. who has been the nurse at Canyon Middle School for 10 years. “Working with middle school-age students has been very interesting and sometimes entertaining. Every day is different and has its own challenges.
“One of my favorite aspects of serving as a school nurse is doing the screenings because I get to interact with all the students, and if there is a problem, I sometimes am the first person to recognize it. I just had a student who did not pass an eye exam, and I sent home a referral letter to the parent. Today, the student came in wearing glasses and told me that it was wonderful to get to see better. How rewarding it is as a school nurse to make a difference in the quality of someone’s life.”
For high school nurse Sylvia Frank, R.N. at Canyon Lake High, who will retire this year after serving the district for 25 years, the students make it all worth it.
“High school is where the students develop an independence before going out into the world on their own,” Frank says. “They develop better communication and learn more about their bodies, and I assist them in problem solving their health issues and teach them how to take care of themselves in health situations.
“I see the role of the school nurse changing as we continue to see an increase in mental health problems," continues Frank.
Comal ISD school nurses are available to speak with parents, students and staff members about many health topics including immunization, nutrition, health screenings, prevention and disease risks.
In addition, as the health expert on each campus, school nurses are the first responders in case of an emergency.
“Our school nurses play a critical role in our overall safety and security strategy as a district,” says Joe McKenna, Ph.D., director of safety and security for Comal ISD. “Their training and expertise is vital to ensure that our campuses have the resources they need to handle emergencies, whether big or small. In most cases, they would be our first responders.”
On this, National School Nurse’s Day, we thank each of our Comal ISD school nurses on the amazing job they do every day.
-Nurse Catriona Salter, R.N., from Indian Springs Elementary
-Nurse Rhonda Jahns, R.N., from Canyon Middle School
-Nurse Sylvia Frank, R.N., from Canyon Lake High School