Cara Rudolph is a School Nurse in Washoe County School District in Nevada. The Washoe County School District is the second largest school district in the state with approximately 63,000 students enrolled in 93 schools.
What time do you get to work?
Around 7.45am. Generally I arrive at school before the office staff, which allows me time to plug in my laptop, look at my to do list for things I want to accomplish at school today and check my mailbox and email. There are lots of emails from teachers with updates about students who have been hospitalised and diagnosed with complex medical problems. I make notes to myself to contact the parent and develop a safe plan for the child once their doctor releases them to return to school.
What’s the most important meeting of the day?
It’s a team meeting with the MTSS team (Multi-Tiered System of Support). The team looks at testing and class performance. I see my role as the one who asks if a student’s struggle may be due to vision or hearing problems, prior medical history or diagnosis, inattention (like ADHD) or even small seizures. If the teacher reports that the student is struggling with reading, then I make a note to screen the student’s close vision and eye tracking. Specialized vision screening is not only state-mandated, but is integral to the role of the school nurse.
How important is good vision to a student’s academic success?
It’s critical. As a School Nurse, I also work with the families of students to ensure they complete any necessary vision screenings and treatment, as well as serve as a resource to connect them with financial assistance programs that are available to them, if needed.
What other health issues do you review?
I review permission forms for students who will be participating in an overnight field trip. Many students will need to take their daily medications while on the trip. With proper permission notes from their parents, some students can self-administer the medication. Some parents prefer that a teacher administer any medications. In that case, I train the teachers how to safely administer and document the medications, and how to spot potential side effects.
What about lunchtimes?
Lunchtimes would typically be spent administering insulin to students with diabetes and providing gastrostomy feedings to students who can’t swallow in the usual way. But today, my nursing colleagues are taking these procedures for me.
The clinical aide provides routine illness or injury care every day but today there are five students who have come to the health office at once, so I pitch in to help. One child has a scraped right knee, another has a twisted ankle from running on the field, and a younger student has a bloody nose. The clinical aide handles more scrapes on elbows. Unfortunately bumps and falls are also common. Thankfully we have standard procedures to monitor the students and identify any concerns. In any type of injury that may results in a concussion, I monitor the student for 20 minutes, observing closely for signs of confusion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headache. Because symptoms of concussion can develop over several hours, we always notify parents when head injuries occur and send home a “head bump notice” so the parent knows to continue to check their child after school.
How does life as an Australian School Nurse compare? Would you like to share a day in your life as a School Nurse?
How do you go about helping improve the health and wellbeing of students? What’s your biggest challenge? What support do you need to do a better job as a School Nurse?
We’re creating a new feature that recognises and celebrates the good work of School Nurses around Australia. Each month we’d like to interview a dedicated School Nurse.
Ideally the questions and answers will reveal some unexpected insights that will encourage greater communication and benefit other School Nurses.
If you’re interested, please email email@example.com to arrange a quick and easy phone interview.