As you can imagine when you have a child with special medical needs, the relationship with the school nurse is extremely important. Not only is she responsible for band aids and Tylenol but also for children with complicated diagnoses. The school nurse took on a big responsibility when Michael was diagnosed with a rare syndrome at age seven. Along with many other tasks, she became my eyes and ears while Michael was at school as well as our trusted friend.
After Michael was diagnosed with SIOD, each school year started with the typical new backpack and crayons but also with a meeting of multiple school staff, particularly the school nurse. I needed to keep her up to date with the progression of the disease and the complicated medication list that changed day by day. Extreme kindness and compassion was consistently displayed by the school nurse time and time again as we stopped by her office to drop off new medication, treatment notes from the doctor or to sign out Michael for doctor appointments. The same was true when I would call to check up on Michael for one reason or another or to discuss the results of an appointment or a surgical procedure. Often she needed to call me, to let me know that Michael was in the nurses office with a headache, leg pain, or something really frightening like a TIA episode. Whatever the situation was our school nurse was always pleasant, calm, kind and loving. She was someone Michael trusted while he was at school and someone I trusted that would be immediately available to him while I was at work. Some days just her smile that greeted us made our morning better. The value of a school nurse goes far beyond what I could describe here in words or even what is listed on the job responsibilities section of her school contract.
Once again it was not just her skills as a nurse that made the years Michael was in school go smoothly but also the relationship that developed between all of us. Michael wanted to go to school and be just like every other kid. Even though he faced many challenges, even though he had to miss many days of school because of his disease and even when he had to go to school the first day in his wheelchair, he just wanted to go to school and be with his friends. The school nurse made that possible by her willingness to not let fear or assumptions stand in the way of a boy who suffered from a rare syndrome yet wanted to attend school and just be “normal” for six hours a day. Great things happened medically and personally as we partnered together year after year in our common goal of keeping Michael in school as much as possible in spite of all of the medical challenges he faced.
The message is the same whether it is the nurse at the doctors office, the nurse at the hospital or the nurse at school. Nursing skills that are laced with kindness and compassion along with a desire to partner with patient and family will always nurture relationships and result in great things. Mother Teresa once said “The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful”. Thank you to all the school nurses who made Michael’s time at school so wonderful.