Published Friday, August 03, 2012

School nursing

I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker/humorist for the recent Georgia Association of School Nurses convention in Peachtree City. While I’m not a nurse, my work as a front desk clerk and substitute teacher in the Coweta County School System proved to me they have an incredibly challenging job.

We had only one traveling nurse in the county at the time, so it was up to the staff to provide care for the children. As the “school mommy” I could bandage a boo-boo or wipe a tear. I gave breathing treatments in the clinic and phoned parents when their little Beaudreau was sick. The parents and kids called me Dr. Bo.

I had a drawer full of medicine bottles containing everything from tummy remedies to Ritalin. I’m sure these days the kid’s meds are kept in a cabinet, locked securely. And they should be. I took this part of my job as serious as possible. Back then I would have made a TSA agent proud.

An adorable second grader would come to my desk, smiling because most all second graders loved to come to the office. “I’ve come for my pill,” she would announce.

I’d look at the label. I’d look at the student.

“What’s your name?” I’d ask.

“You know my name, Dr. Bo!”

“Yes I do, but I want to make sure this is your medicine,” I’d say as sweetly as possible while the phone rang incessantly and parents waited at the front desk. “Now what’s your name?”

“I made a B in spelling this morning!”

“That’s wonderful, sweetie! Now say your name, please.”

“It would have been an A except I didn’t put my name on my paper.”

I wasn’t surprised. Apparently keeping her name a secret was the game of the day.

“Well, a B is good,” I said, still holding the medicine bottle. “Can you say your name please?”

“Did you know we got a new puppy?”

About that time the principal would walk by, pat the child on the head and say something like, “Hi Jennie, are you having a good day?”

I’d look at the bottle, which clearly said both Jennie and her last name, which I knew, and dish out the pill to the student.

It just freaked me out to give meds to kids who were not my own. I never, ever wanted to make a mistake and in the years I had that responsibility, never did.

There was a brother and sister team who were absolutely adorable. They had straight, jet black hair and huge, dark brown eyes. They were just barely in kindergarten and first grade, respectively.

One day, the little girl arrived without her brother.

“My bruvvuh won’t be here today. He had a heart attack,” she informed us matter-of-factly, then trotted off to do first grade things.

The office went into a tizzy as we tried to gather our wits and figure out how to serve that family. A single phone call revealed it wasn’t nearly as dire as we suspected; the child had had an asthma attack and was nearly recovered.

My job as “Dr. Bo” was clearly the lowest paying job with the highest yield. I still remember those sweet little ones who brightened my day, as well as the ones who arrived kicking and screaming. Yes, we had one who kicked and screamed the entire day – a day spent in the principal’s office. The energy was astounding. After a little while I walked by and saw the principal holding him in her lap while he sobbed.

For a “real” school nurse it must be challenging trying to figure out and validate situations. And some of those situations were unbelievable. Among their daily tasks, school nurses have to assist some children with home problems that would make most adults cringe.

A tiny glance into the world of school nurses caused me to love and respect each and every one of them for the difficult tasks they have before them on a daily basis. As the school year begins, I hope readers here will stop by the nurse’s office and say thank you for all they do.

..............

Kathy Bohannon is a Georgia Press Association award winner and regular contributor to the Newnan Times-Herald.

© 2011 The Newnan Times-Herald Inc., Newnan, Georgia. Any unauthorized use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.