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School Teachers vs. School Nurses – 3 Reasons to Listen

School Nurse

Two teachers came to visit me today. They were polite as they approached me with a few questions. At first I didn’t know what to think; I didn’t feel like they were teaming up on me, the school nurse. But I did feel they were attempting to “tread on thin ice.” Funny thing is: My ice is pretty thick.

“We wanted to see if anything had changed as far as policies go,” one asked. “Sometimes the students come down to see the nurse and then come back to class, lay their head down, and try to rest. When I ask what’s wrong, the child says, ‘The nurse said I wasn’t sick’.”

They were not being coy or rude; they were genuinely looking for information and understanding. “We’re not trying to tell you how to do your job, but…”

I quickly realized that the intention of the two teachers was to ask, though in too many words, “When we send the kids down sick, why do you send them right back to class still sick?”

Teachers teach, and nurses nurse, right? Na… No way, Jose’! It hasn’t been as often as I’d like, but I have gotten in front of the classroom and taught multiple times. Teachers have put Band-Aids on children before. The line between the roles of school nurses and teachers should be gray and somewhat fuzzy and more like a “shared responsibility” rather than a fine, red line that dichotomizes (that’s a fun word) the two roles.

“We sent a child down earlier because she said she was going to throw up, and you sent her back to class. She ended up throwing up, and I called her mother to pick her up.”

Sometimes We Just Call It Wrong

Nurses are not perfect. One of the challenges of being a school nurse is to be able to spot the fakers. Yes, believe it or not, some children fake it. But not all. Some will show up with no fever, no temperature, no other symptoms. They will stay in the office for 10, 15, or even 30 minutes, talking with the other sick and injured children. When they seem like they are OK and ready to return to class, you send them back. Two seconds later, they throw up…in the hall…on the carpet.

Other children will show up appearing sad and suffering from symptoms that no child should ever have to endure. “I’m so sick, Nurse Kevin. My head hurts and even my littlest finger.” However, once that call is made to momma, and the child knows her mother is en route, “Nurse Kevin, can I go get my bag from my cubby? Nurse Kevin, can I have a mint? Nurse Kevin, can I go outside and play on the spinner?” I plead with these children to sit down and at least act like they are sick!

What do you do when two girls walk in, both having fallen off the monkey bars and both complaining of right arm pain? One sits up and starts telling you all about what she was for Halloween, while the other lies on her right arm and appears to be resting, but engages nonetheless, “I was a princess bride.”

“Okay girls, back to class.” The first one goes back. But the second one sits up and complains of pain just as soon as the words “back to class” come out. First she was talking “princess,” and now she’s crying about her arm. She lies back down and on the injured right arm. The tell-tale sign came when she experienced relief when lying on the arm and screamed bloody murder when she was sitting up. Splint – call momma – hospital. Sure ‘nuf: broken!

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