A Day In The Life Of School Nurse Heather Laxton

Heather Laxon is a School Nurse at Mangere College in Auckland, New Zealand. Through the Achievement in Multicultural High Schools (AIMHI) Forum, the school has developed a strong and supportive learning culture that acknowledges the emotional needs of its students.

How long have you been a School Nurse?

I’ve been a school nurse for six years. I enjoy working in an autonomous role, and I’m energised by the young people I work with. The role is a great fit for the skills I gained from my emergency department and public health background.

Do you work as part of a team?

I work as part of a multi-disciplinary team made up of a social worker, counsellor, two School Nurses, and a receptionist in the Student Services Centre (SSC).

What time do you start work?

Around 7.45 am. It is quiet at this time of day, so I restock the clinic. Today the student health council runs a club providing free breakfasts for students. I have a quick chat with the two students on duty and make sure they have everything they need.

What time is morning briefing?

At 8.30 am the SSC team head to the staffroom for morning briefing. It’s a good chance to catch up about students that staff have concerns about and hear what is happening around school. Back to SSC, and we decide that today my nurse colleague Fiona is going to do the comprehensive Home, Education, Eating, Activities, Drugs and Alcohol, Suicide and Depression, Sexuality, and Safety) ( HEEADSS) assessments that we carry out for all Year 9 students. I’m running the walk-in clinic.

How many students do you see in the first few hours?

I see 14 students who self-present. There are the usual headaches and stomach aches. Often, students present with one thing, but there are other issues that also need attention. It is nearly the end of the rugby season, so a few rugby players present with injuries – some I refer on to the onsite physio who comes in weekly.

Morning tea?

Time for a quick cup of tea, then I catch up with the rest of the team. I meet with the social worker and counsellor to consult about a student we have all been involved with. She has arrived at school today refusing to go home this evening. The young person has previously been under Child, Youth and Family (CYF) care, and she now discloses abuse at the place she is currently staying. We talk with her about a course of action and agree for our social worker to go ahead with another notification.


The next student I see requests a bandage for her arm. I ask her what’s wrong, and after a slight hesitation, she rolls up her sleeve. She has about 30 superficial cut marks up her arm. I ask her if she has been cutting, at which she starts crying. As I tend to her cuts, we talk. It’s the first time she has cut herself. There have been problems at home and also with friends and it’s all got too much. I have a quick word with the counsellor, who sees the girl. After talking with the counsellor, the girl emerges smiling. I’m often astounded by the resiliency of young people in the face of huge adversity.

Emergency call-out?

Five minutes before lunch, I get a call-out, so I grab my emergency bag and phone and head to the rugby field. A student has taken a knee to the back of his neck during a rugby game and is complaining of a lot of pain. The PE teacher has not moved him, and he’s lying on his back where he fell. I carry out an assessment. He is very tender over his cervical spine but has no neurological symptoms. I make a 111 call for an ambulance as he is going to need further assessment*.


I grab a quick bite of lunch. I catch up with our whānau support worker, who runs the afternoon sore throat clinic as part of the rheumatic heart disease prevention programme. There is one student with a positive GAS throat swab. I call the student in to explain the result and then try – successfully – to phone the parent. I give the parent information about the need for treatment, check allergy status and medical history, and then obtain verbal consent to give the student antibiotics (under standing orders). I then go over instructions with the student and give her the antibiotics to take home.

When’s the school bell?

3.20pm. It’s been a busy but not untypical day. I love that each day is unpredictable and never boring. I leave work around 4 pm.

* The student was discharged later that day after having an X-ray of his cervical-spine, which showed no bone injury.


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?

At Student First Aid we recognise and celebrate the good work of School Nurses around the world. Each month we 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 help@studentfirstaid.com.au to arrange a quick and easy phone interview.


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