The school nurse very often acts as surrogate mom to the students of Half Hollow Hills. Always nurturing and all too often lice checking, a school nurse's job is immeasurable. Not only does the nurse administer first aid, band-aids for bruises, and hugs for hurt feelings, our school nurse also becomes very involved in the lives of our students and their families.
I had the opportunity to chat with Vanderbilt's school nurse, Kathy Kremer, to get an inside glimpse into the daily goings-on in the nurse's office.
What is your primary role as school nurse at Vanderbilt?
In a nutshell, I am responsible for the health and safety of all students and staff. We must adhere to the laws and regulations of New York State and the Board of Education. We provide first aid, monitor student compliance with immunization laws, and other state laws relative to physical and dental exam requirements.
Our office also provides emergency health plans for students with medical issues such as asthma, diabetes, seizure disorder, etc. We perform vision and hearing tests, we check heights and weights, and screen for scoliosis. Children come to the nurse's office for medication and we counsel them about chronic illnesses, nutrition and disease prevention. We are also responsible to interpret medical data and contribute to students' IEPs and 504s.
About how many students visit your office per day?
In the beginning of the school year, we usually get about 40 students on average per day. By the turkey trot (mid-November) we're up to 50 and by June the number can go as high as 85 per day.
What are the most common reasons for the visits?
Headaches, stomach aches, abrasions from falls at recess, bumped heads, and seasonal allergies.
What forms are you required to have on file in your office?
We keep emergency contact cards, immunization records, physical, and dental exams for each student at Vanderbilt. We also keep on file any medication orders.
Are there any sensitive subjects you find yourself involved in with the students?
The children have bathroom accidents, hygiene issues, hurt feelings, and broken hearts. They experience disappointments, death in their families, a mom or dad is away on business, they didn't get invited to the party, or they forgot to wear the right color t-shirt for the school-wide assembly. Also sensitive are CPS issues.
How do you document everything that happens in the nurse's office?
Each student has a Cumulative Health record that contains all of his or her paperwork. Physical exams are noted here as well as the results of their height, weight, vision, hearing and scoliosis screening. This information is also entered into the Infinite Campus database, as is each and every Health Office visit. Mrs. Marcoccia maintains the attendance records.
How much do you communicate with the teachers in your building?
I email teachers daily with regard to things like Phys. Ed. exclusions, field trip medications and new glasses. I am also asked to give perspective on student and family issues as they relate to classroom behavior.
What is the most important thing you would like parents to know?
That I treat each child as if he or she is my own. Each and every student is my most important patient. I hope I contribute to their children wanting to come to school and knowing they feel safe here. I also want parents to know that "I will call you!"
How can parents help their children to prevent trips to the nurse's office?
Keep kids who are not feeling well at home. Help them to learn healthy habits such as hand washing, the proper way to cover a cough, and how to blow their nose. Make sure they eat a good breakfast. Inspect their heads for lice. Teach them about good sportsmanship. Provide clothing that is comfortable; shoes that enable them to run and climb; jackets, hats, and mittens to keep them warm in cold weather. Anticipate what they will need for the day and make sure they have it. Kiss them goodnight and encourage them.
Mrs. Kremer also gets involved in Vanderbilt Helping Their Own. Together with the PTA, social workers and community members, the organization provides food, clothing and toys for needy families at the holidays and year round. They also donated medical supplies to those who suffered the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.
"We have both extremely generous and grateful families in our Vanderbilt community. That I get to be a part of the giving is the icing on the cake of this wonderful job," Kremer said.