Donna Pierson is a Registered Nurse currently looking after 2,500 Unit 40 students every year as Effingham’s School Nurse in Illinois. Donna looks after a wide age bracket of kids, ranging from pre-kindergarten to high school seniors and has done so for the past 7 years.
What is your approach to nursing?
The focus changes as the student's transition from kindergarten to high school.
What is the main difference between the age groups you look after?
The needs of the smallest ones are often as much emotional as physical, and a hug with the Band-Aid goes a long way. High schoolers are more complex, and teaching them to get healthy and stay healthy is a big part of my work.
How many schools do you work across?
I work across five different schools a week.
How do you work across so many schools at once?
I visit each school once per week on a rotating basis, however, I am available to all of them. I use email, text and phone to keep in contact with parents and school personnel. On any given week I have face-to-face contact with around 150 students, in addition to telephone conversations with parents.
What does your role include?
I collect all the state-mandated physical exams, shot records, vision and hearing screens, and dental exams. I also keep track of forms, review their contents and follow up with family if there are any unmet needs. At the end-of-summer school registration days, I am on hand to meet parents and to let them know about Effingham County resources.
How do you deal with students that have acute and chronic medical conditions?
I have developed a specific nursing plan to care for students with acute and chronic medical conditions. In acute cases, I do a physical assessment on the spot and decide what should happen next. If a temperature check, node palpation, and throat inspection indicate a student has a probable strep infection, that means arranging with the parent to see the child's primary care provider. Once in a while, there are signs and symptoms of injury like a fracture, or a unique problem like an acute abdominal malfunction. Then a trip to the emergency room is advised.
What are some of the chronic conditions you come across as a School Nurse?
We look after students with asthma who benefit from an asthma management plan and continuous access to an inhaler. We also have students with diabetes, who are strongly encouraged to self-manage their condition, including blood sugar testing, carbohydrate counting and insulin administration.
How do you deal with medical needs that impact learning?
If a child has medical needs that impact learning, I work as part of a team, which also includes the special education coordinator, psychologist, social worker and the classroom teacher. We collaboratively set goals with the parent and the student and track the student's progress.
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?
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