Rural NC school receives grant to fund school nurse

Author(s): Lydia L. Kim, Digital Content Editor

The Summit Charter School in North Carolina recently received a grant from the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation to employ a full-time school nurse. This grant will enable the school to provide the students of Summit greater access to healthcare professionals.

American Nurse Today interviewed the recipient of the grant, Zandra Wingfield, and we’d like to share her take on her new role and the field of school nursing with our readers.

American Nurse Today: Hello, Zandra! It’s great to (virtually) meet you! First of all, the American Nurse Today team would like to congratulate you on your new position with the Summit Charter School.

Zandra Wingfield (ZW) – Thank you so much, I feel very honored!

To start off, we would like to know what excites you most about your new role?

ZW – There are so many things I love about working in this new role! I have always loved to work with pediatrics and it is an honor to continue doing what I love while working with an incredible team of staff and teachers who put their heart and soul into what they do for their students on a daily basis. I watch these students blossom every day and get to build relationships with them as well. I love connecting with my patients, and to have the opportunity to connect with our students and carry it on throughout their time here at Summit is a true gift.

We know you have history working in pediatrics. How did you get started in this field? What drew you to the specialty?

ZW – I grew up in a large family and had several jobs as a nanny as I got older, so my love for children and watching them grow developed over the years along with that. My very first job as a registered nurse was on the Pediatric Cardiac ICU at UF Health (formerly Shands), and I loved the experiences I had there. Pediatrics is a unique field because often you not only get to build relationships with the child (patient), but the patient’s family as well. That to me is really special; working with parents/guardians to take care of their child as if he or she were my own. And nothing beats getting to be the person on any particular day to put a smile on a child’s face. It’s priceless.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for school nurses, and how do you think we, as a society, can do to help overcome it?

ZW – I’m very fortunate to work as a school nurse in a place where my input is valued and I have the time and space to work diligently with our students, as we have a student body of only 231 kids. I know in other places, however, that this is not the case. I have spoken to many other school nurses who work with hundreds, if not thousands, of students per day and simply do not have the time or resources they would like to provide optimal care for each individual student who comes to see them. School nurses are often the first medical personnel to assess a patient before advising a parent to take them to a hospital or clinic and need to feel more empowered as an integral part of a patient’s healthcare plan moving forward. I believe that helping the public to understand the true need for a school nurse and the benefits of having one in each school would be a huge step forward in providing school nurses with the resources they need, and giving school nurses more of a voice in the medical world.

What are the most common health conditions you see with your students and what are some of the most challenging ones?

ZW – Most commonly I see many students who have the traditional stomachache or cold. I also take care of many bee stings, perform lots of temperature and vital signs assessments, and assess lots of sports/physical activity related injuries (I hand out many ice packs, ha-ha). But our most challenging health conditions are usually related to allergies and anaphylactic reactions. We are a peanut-free campus due to the number of students who have allergies to peanuts, and the nature of living in the mountains contributes to several environmental and pollen-induced allergic reactions. We have to be very careful about recognizing those symptoms quickly and providing appropriate care to the student experiencing a reaction, which is also why EpiPen4Schools has been such a blessing in providing free EpiPens for our campus for those emergent situations.

How do you help address the needs of students facing socioeconomic challenges?

ZW – This will always be a huge challenge for any professional working with students/children. But I’m thankful we have such a great staff here at Summit as it really is a team effort to address those needs. I am fortunate to work with an amazing head of school, principal(s), school counselor, front office staff, and other personnel who are in constant, effective communication and take these needs very seriously. Each student is taken care of on a case-by-case basis and provided with appropriate care based on the direct needs of the child, just as any pediatric patient would be taken care of in a hospital. I’m encouraged to know that this team I work with has a mutual desire to take care of our students as if they were our own children.

What advice would you give to nurses who are interested in seeking a school nurse role?

ZW – It is one of the most rewarding and unique roles you may ever have as a nurse, and it is so worth it. Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone as it can be a huge learning curve compared to what you may be used to. Building relationships with your students, becoming a safe and trusted person for them, and working closely with the rest of the staff and parents is key. And last, but not least, smile and have fun with it! You never know what your students are walking through and the impact you have that may change their entire day, year, or even their life. Own it, and make the most of every moment.

What outcomes are you tracking to demonstrate your impact?

ZW – We use an electronic data system called PowerSchool to collect and report information about nursing interventions and outcomes. Case histories and office visits are thoroughly documented and reviewed frequently to track each individual student’s overall health and wellness. I am also in the process of developing specific methods and evaluations to track the following suggested parameters cited from a research article by Pennsylvania State University titled, “Measuring outcomes of school nursing services”:

-Our students are physically and emotionally healthy
-Families have resources for their children
-Healthcare of children with chronic conditions is managed
-Students and families show progress in managing student health needs
–The school environment is nurturing and healthy
-Decreased unnecessary visits to school nurses
-Decreased visits to hospital emergency departments
-Decreased physical injury accidents in schools
-Cost-effectiveness of completed mandated screenings
-Cost-effectiveness of providing health services in schools
-Parent satisfaction with nurse interventions
-Staff report of increased knowledge of health issues
-Readiness to learn
-Improved attendance
-Academic success

I am excited to track these parameters and work diligently to increase positive outcomes for our students and staff.

In addition to nursing, what are your other passions? Who or what inspires you?

ZW – My greatest passion will always be motherhood and raising our 3-year-old son, Samuel. Working in this role affords me the opportunity to have him in the best preschool right down the road from our school and I get to be home with him at the same time every day as well as holidays and summers—it’s wonderful. I also have a huge passion for singing praise and worship music and I sing regularly at our church. As a Christian, the people in my life who keep me grounded in my faith and always point me back to Jesus are who inspire me on a daily basis. I couldn’t ask for a better church family and now work family in our community who bring me joy and surround my family with love—I’m extremely thankful!

Read more about the Summit Charter school here, and more about the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation here.

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