A Day In The Life Of School Nurse Terry Hillen

Terry Hillen is one of nine School Nurses contracted with Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 in Illinois. She is responsible for Emerson Elementary School, Hawthorne Elementary School and Sandburg Middle School, along with overseeing half of the district’s K-12 schools as well as several of the School Nurses and health aides.

What’s the best part about being a School Nurse?

It’s one of the most rewarding jobs because I’m able to touch lives and work with children.

What’s it like working across numerous schools?

Each school has a unique personality. The day never goes according to my planner, and the job never gets boring.

Are you always on call?

Yes, I am. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to go help a child at one of the schools. If a child gets injured on the playground or needs immediate medical attention, I can be there in five to 10 minutes.

What if an ambulance is needed?

I’ll ride with the child to the hospital and communicate the situation to the parents and emergency department staff.

What’s a typical day like for you?

It might begin at Emerson Elementary School for a team meeting with school staff, social workers and administrators to discuss a possible case study or individual care plan for a child with special needs. It takes a team approach to promote learning and develop health plans for students with specific needs.

Is the number of students with exceptional needs growing?

Yes, it’s growing all the time. About 60 percent of my time is spent coordinating care for these children. School Nurses work with parents and physicians to develop action plans for students who have special needs, including tracheal tubes, diabetes management, seizure protocol or asthma monitoring.

What happens after a team meeting?

I may get paged to observe a student at Sandburg Middle School or fill in for one of the School Nurses. Some students have exceptional medical or physical needs that require one-on-one care throughout the entire school day. School Nurses not only care for them, but also help them communicate with teachers and peers.

After lunch? 

I may go to Hawthorne Elementary School where I make phone calls to parents to follow-up on the results of hearing or vision screenings. Parents are contacted when a child needs glasses or additional exams from a physician. Along with the other School Nurses, I ensure that the schools meet state health regulations such as mandated immunisations and vaccines.

What about more common complaints?

While I’m in the health office at Hawthorne, a few children will usually stop in with stomach 3aches or playground injuries. A full-time health aide is on staff at each school to help with these needs throughout the day. Health aides make sure parents are alerted when necessary and that incidents are recorded.

How do you finish your day?

Probably with a presentation to students. I teach classes about nutrition and making healthy lifestyle choices. Promoting healthy eating choices and addressing childhood obesity concerns are priorities in our schools.


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. Each month we interview a dedicated School Nurse.

If you’re interested, please email help@studentfirstaid.com.au to arrange a quick and easy phone interview.

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