Updated: Apr 24, 2021
Lisa Staples-Wherry is an AISD school nurse at Johns Elementary. Interview conducted February 5, 2021 by vice president Rosana Renzzo.
ASNA: Caring for others starts with caring for ourselves. As a school nurse you provide both physical and emotional care for students, teachers, and staff. How do you feel about your own health?
Lisa: I started the school year off knowing the severity of Coronavirus and its effects after what we all experienced in Spring 2020. By Thanksgiving, we were in full COVID-19 uncertainty. That was when I can truly say that COVID fatigue was real and hit me like a ton of bricks, both physically and emotionally. The inability to attend funerals of friends and love ones is another stressor. The long-awaited winter break seemed in the far distance; however, it provided a much-needed repose. Even though, I could not fully enjoy the maternal joys of visiting my own son (who is a healthcare provider) then January hit again like a wrecking ball. It left me hardly remembering that I had even been off for two weeks.
ASNA: Do feel like school nurses should be provided with a better health insurance, due to daily exposition to different diseases?
Lisa: Fortunately, I do not have the health insurance, I have not heard favorable comments about it. Moreover, I do feel that school nurses should receive hazardous compensation for the daily COVID exposure that we have endured since returning to school during the pandemic. ASNA: School Nurses are educators, teaching their patients ( students, student families, teachers, staff ) about the importance of self-care on several topics. As well, school nurses play an important role in promoting public health, disease prevention and changing behavior of individual with respect to their health. However, the school nurses' roles as promoters of health are more complex due to the patient: nurse ratio in schools. What is your favorite topic to teach?
Lisa: Prior to the pandemic, I loved teaching growth and development classes. Currently all my teaching is directed toward the public health crisis that we are facing. Daily friendly reminders regarding proper mask placement, handwashing for 20 seconds and physical distancing. ASNA: Although the concept of a school nurse has existed for more than a century, uniformity among states and school districts regarding the role of a registered professional nurse in schools and the laws governing it are lacking. Most of the people in our society do not understanding the benefits, roles, and responsibilities of school nurses. Throughout the history of nursing, school nurses have served their communities and continue to fill many essential roles. Do you believe that the community recognize the important role school nurses play in promoting the optimal biopsychosocial health and well-being of school-aged children in the school setting?
Lisa: In 1902 the first school nurse was hired to reduce absenteeism by intervening with students and families regarding healthcare needs related to communicable diseases. Today, that continues to be one of the numerous tasks we tackle daily, in addition to: medication administration, medical treatments, health screenings, monitoring current immunization, coordinating appropriate student medical needs as well as assessing/ monitoring any staff medical needs as needed. Many parents have no idea their child has a hearing or vision deficit until they receive a letter from their school nurse. Nothing warms my heart more than when a student receives eyeglasses and says, "I can see now". I feel that most parents appreciate our professionalism and expertise and are grateful for our existence.
ASNA: How do you feel knowing that the school nurses make the lower salary when compared to other types of nurses? Lisa: Well, that's not very comforting to know. Most of us live in Arlington and have raised our children in AISD. We chose to work for the district because we love it, and we believe in it. Nursing is nursing no matter what area of expertise one works in and should be compensated as such. The lower salary in school nursing is extremely unfortunate and makes one feel their value is not as important as a bedside nurse. If this pandemic has not proven our value to the district, I have no idea what will. Many of us have worked nonstop since hybrid school in August 2020. I've not heard anyone say out loud that can't turn off our phones after 4:00 pm and all weekend anymore. I don't know one nurse who has NOT received texts or calls after phones since August. We just want our value, commitment, and hard work to be compensated accordingly.