Ice packs, bandages and pain reliever are a fraction of the care and support school nurses give Beatrice students.
Anywhere from 65 to 85 students walk into the high school nursing office each day, 25 of which are scheduled visits, said Jennifer Buol, the full-time nurse at Beatrice High School.
Buol said visits by students to the school nurse have increased and broadened in nature over the years. Buol is in her sixth year in her position and worked several years in the medical field prior.
“Thing like ADD, autism, emotional issues — we didn’t understand those things, so we weren’t treating them,” Buol said. “We’re seeing ever-increasing medical needs and medical oversight. Students with higher needs are coming in.”
Scheduled daily visits include students receiving behavioral medications, insulin and tube feeding. Buol said several high school students have chronic conditions such as asthma, severe food allergies, Graves’ disease and Crohn’s disease.
“We’re very, very busy,” Buol said. “I don’t think the general public knows the demand of our jobs.”
A part-time nurse works at BHS in the mornings. The nurses have record of 7,000 visits last school year, a number they already reached in February of this school year.
“It’s exhausting,” Buol said. “I like being challenged every day. ... I like that I get to see a difference made. Working in a hospital, I might not see the person in Room 4 again. Here, we develop relationships and rapport. We hear from students how they are responding to their treatments. Previous graduates still stop in and see me.”
School nurses sometimes use their training in counseling. They’re also required by the state to report when they notice signs of abuse in a student, such as bruises. Buol called the care given to students interdisciplinary.
“We work with the school resource officer, guidance counselors, administrators,” she said. “We really get involved. It’s a team effort. We all work toward the same goal of having happy, healthy, successful students.”
The nurses provide education from their office and, when requested, the classroom, on nutrition, body mass index, EpiPen training and other aspects of health.
School nurses document everything and keep track of students’ mandatory health screenings, exams and vaccinations.
Jen Zimmerman, the full-time nurse at Beatrice Middle School, said she sees about 35 to 45 kids each day, 15 of which are scheduled visits.
“The rest come in for various things — a cut, or they’re feeling sick,” Zimmerman said. “A lot comes up through the day.”
Zimmerman said even in the last five years, many more kids have known food allergies and use an EpiPen.
“It’s kind of an alarming thing,” Zimmerman said. “A lot of peanut allergies. Some tree nuts. All of them generally revolve around nuts. A couple are allergic to dairy products.”
Zimmerman, the only nurse at BMS, also has to keep up with paperwork. She gives education, including a CPR unit to sixth graders. All seventh graders get eye exams and hearing tests. Zimmerman said “There’s always something to do.”
“It can be really hectic or really slow,” Zimmerman said.
School nurses also aid staff.
“You never know what’s going to walk through the door. We have to be prepared for anything,” Zimmerman said, mentioning breathing emergencies and seizures. “Just about anything can happen here, I’ve learned.”
The care reaches outside of medical needs.
“I fix glasses when lenses come out,” Zimmerman said. “I get stains out of clothes. I’ve mended ripped pants. I keep safety pins here. ... Some things I can’t fix, but most of the time I can.”
Zimmerman said she loves her job and enjoys working independently and with kids as patients. The most challenging part of her job, she said, is seeing kids who are often sad and have no one at home to talk to.
Paddock Lane is the only elementary school with a full-time nurse, Maxine Gowen. Shannon Kleveland is the district nurse and splits her time at all four elementary schools.
“Beatrice Public Schools really invests in the health of its students,” Kleveland said. “We like to promote health education for our kids.”
All BPS school nurses utilize school newsletters to educate readers on various health issues.
Kindergartners through fourth graders receive vision, hearing, dental, height and weight checks.
“We send a surprising number of students out for glasses,” Kleveland said. “A mom told us that one student left the doctor’s office and said, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s leaves on that tree.’ Another rode the bus and read all of the signs. It’s a great feeling knowing you made a difference in the child’s perspective and life.”
All of the nurses said the goal is for students to be in class and learning while healthy and successful.
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