11 Qualities of an Awesome School Nurse – Nurses are great folks. And I ain’t just saying that because I’m a nurse; I have worked with hundreds of nurses in four different states and in five different “genres” of nursing. We nurses are pretty awesome folks. Sure we are! We can have our fingers tangled up to the third knuckle in a child’s hair getting bugs out and be eating a sandwich on-the-run 15 minutes later without a thought or care.
What makes an awesome school nurse? Nurses in general aside, I’m talking specifically: what makes an awesome school nurse? I came up with this list because strive to be the kind of nurse that I personally would love to work with. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means. There’s only so much text any reasonable blog reader (like you and I) will tolerate. So, after you read this list and find that I missed a trait that would be a quality of being an awesome school nurse, help me out and continue this article by adding in the comments section at the bottom. Let’s see how far this list can grow.
“Be the kind of nurse you’d want to work with.” – Nurse Kevin
1. Professionalism with a just a hint of humor (maybe more than just a hint).
It’s okay to laugh along with the kinder after a “left-cheek sneak.” Maybe that’ll be the cure to his belly ache.
2. Medical competency and an extensive skill set.
Knowing what to do, when to do it, and HOW to do it.
3. Ability to “take it” and not “lose it.”
It’s not personal — it’s stress. Not everybody can have a highly developed prefrontal cortex and a controllable amygdala like you (the jury is still out on my brain chemistry – I often experience an amygdala hijack). And I am not just talking about the “developing” brains of the children either. Sometimes…maybe more than sometimes, parents may have difficulty ignoring the “impulses” of their amygdala.
4. Desire to help people — and the children (patients) are not the only “people.”
Other nurses, co-caring teachers, awesome psychologists, and a whole array of school-house disciplines are people, too.
5. Understanding of why you are here each day.
Data entry, care planning, meetings, and classroom instruction are all important works we do each day. But remember this one platinum rule:
“The children DO NOT interrupt our work; the children ARE our work.” – Nurse Kevin
6. Patience — an awesome school nurse has patience.
The child with the afternoon abrasion on the elbow who starts to answer the simple question, “How did this happen?” by starting their story at the beginning of the day: “I was friends with Dimitri this morning, but he took my Pop Tart. Then at lunch I took his cheesy pull-a-parts. Then just now I tripped over Jessa and fell on the cement.” Sometimes when there are a ton of children in the office, I want to pull my hair out and say, “Get to the point!” But this IS their way of “getting to the point.” So, sometimes I sing to myself:
“Little patience, mm yeah, mm yeah
Need a little patience, yeah
Just a little patience, yeah” — Guns ‘n Roses
7. The wisdom to know the difference between your nursing judgement and employment direction.
Now, let me be clear. I ain’t preachin’ no rebellion against authority (you rebel scum). I ain’t telling you to ignore the direction of your supervisor or to disregard the specifics of your job description and assigned duties. Your employer can tell you when to show up for work, what reports you will be responsible for, and that you’ll be responsible for teaching puberty to the 5th graders. And, your employer hired you for your clinical insight, nursing intuition, and medical and clinical judgment. When it comes to caring for the children and their medical needs, your good ol’ fashion nursing judgement is your “employee handbook” and “job description.” Do not ignore your Nurse-ey Senses…ever. Your clinical instinct is your ultimate boss.
8. The ability to stomach the per annum wage for school nursing and not feel shocked each month when the direct deposit shows up.
Many great school nurses are used to seeing a check with our school nurse monthly pay hit our bank accounts — only we used to get two of those a month and not just one. We know this good and well when we start. Me? I rarely feel underpaid. Do I make less than when I was a hospice nurse? Sure I do! But a good school nurse has the ability to “remember when.”
Remember when we worked nights?
Remember when we worked evenings?
Remember when we worked weekends? Birthdays? Christmas???
Remember saying on a Thursday, the first of a six-day stretch, “Today is my Monday?”
A good school nurse knows two things going into this deal:
a. The school nurse pay is much less per annum than that of a 2,080-hour-per-year nurse (and do you actually know a nurse who works only 2,080 hours per year??). However, when broken down into per-hour-worked, the pay is pretty doggone good! And I have not even mentioned the benefits.
b. A great school nurse enjoys a wonderful work-life-balance that is beyond compare!
Whenever on the rare occasion, my brain gets to playing tricks on me, and the “under-paid bug” starts to bite, I just simply “remember when.”
9. A great school nurse has the ability to teach puberty class.
Teaching 5th-grade boys about their bodies and changes that are and will be happening is like walking into a giggle-fest.
And why do they giggle when they hear the word “penis?” They all got a left foot, too but ain’t none of them laughing when I say “foot.”
10. The ability to “just smile and wave.”
The ability to mitigate problems quickly is a must-have quality in a great school nurse. “WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME? YOU CALLED MY EX BUT NOT ME. WHY?”
One Thursday I got a heads up from my principal, “Nurse Kevin, a father is likely going to be calling you today to find out why you didn’t call him about Tommy when he hit his head.”
After a review of my notes (thank goodness I document like I do), I see the three-day-old incident was reported to Tommy’s mother, with whom the child resides. I knew I’d seen Tommy running around and continuing to act normal…well, he continued to act like Normal Tommy.
When the father called, he was not happy with poor ‘ol Nurse Kevin. I told him point blank, “Sir, I have done my due diligence, and you and your child’s mother should be grown-ups and talk to one another civilly and respectfully about their genetically collaborated offspring.”
Well, no…that’s a lie…what I actually did was “smile and wave.” A simple fix was simply to “flag” PowerSchool to “remind me” to hold these parents’ hands and sing Kumbaya to keep the peace. After all, what did I know about their family dynamics?
11. Effective interpersonal skills, not only with the kids and their families, but with the teachers and their concerns — to “hear” the teachers.
I have a whole article on listening to the teachers. A great school nurse understands that it takes a village to raise a child, and that village is full of mammas and daddies with parental instincts that collaboratively exceed any school nurse’s knowledge and experiences.
Back when I was a manager at a nursing facility, we were receiving a gentleman who had suffered with MS for the past decade, and his care needs had progressed beyond his wife’s ability to care for him at home.
Have you ever quad-coughed a patient? Up to that point, neither had I.
Sure, we nurses know MS. And one young nurse let the wife know this when the wife was trying to explain her husband’s care pattern.
“Yes Mrs. So-And-So, I know all about MS, and you don’t have to explain.” Then she let THOSE words escape from her mouth, “I am the nurse.”
You see, she was the nurse and knew MS, CHF, COPD, and her ABCs and 123s. But what this nurse DIDN’T know was this wife had 10 years of intense, real-world experiences with MS. She’s studied MS at the University of Life at Hard Knocks, without the guidance of a nursing instructor and a return demonstration. Not only does this wife know everything about MS, she knows exactly how MS affects her husband and how her husband responds to MS. Her honorary PhD in MS trumps any BSN.
Many of the teachers and other faculty at your school have real-life experiences with illnesses, injuries, and the emotional needs of children…a great school nurse tucks their pride in their back pocket and opens their ears wide. Read this article for a better perspective on this.
A great school nurse never pulls the “I’m the nurse” card.
And there you have it, the first 11 qualities that make an awesome school nurse. You’re probably thinking, “Wait! You forgot…this…and you forgot…that…” Sure I did! Let everyone know what quality you feel every awesome school nurse has in the comment section below.
May The Tummy Aches Always Be Relieved,