School Nurses Play Many Different Roles

By Pamela Bond

Victoria Advocate

May 7, 2008

Terri Spratlin and Murray McDonald said they didn’t plan on becoming a school nurse, but both knew exactly why they kept coming back each day.

“Sometimes it’s just the kids giving us a hug, or saying ‘you’re cool,’” Spratlin said. “We’re really trying to help the kids. We want them to be as academically successful as possible.”

Today is National School Nurses Day. Spratlin, who has been a school nurse for Victoria school district since 1990, and McDonald, the district’s only male nurse, who is in his eighth year of school nursing, care for more than 11,000 students, plus faculty and staff, at Howell Middle School.

“A lot of people don’t know what school nursing is all about,” Spratlin said. “My husband thought I’d just see some kids and slap on on a Band-Aid. When student nurses come through, they never in their wildest dreams thought we would be doing all this. We play many roles – nurse, counselor, educator, friend, confidante.”

On Monday, Spratlin and McDonald saw 104 students, which McDonald said is about average. Of those, 23 students come in for daily medicines, such as those with Type I diabetes. Another 10 to 15 come in regularly for headache or stomach medicine, and two students require daily procedures.

Besides the regulars, Spratlin said every day is different. In the current school year they have seen students with a broken nose, broken ankles, respiratory distress and heart problems.

Spratlin and McDonald are also responsible for state-mandated testing of hearing, vision, scoliosis and Type II diabetes at the school. They make sure immunizations are up to date and speak to classes about health issues.

Like most nurses in the district, Spratlin and McDonald are certified to teach CPR, first aid and safety training. They also received the same training as Department of Public Safety Officers to screen for alcohol use.

“Believe it or not, we have done a couple this year,” McDonald said. “You wouldn’t think that would be part of the job.”

McDonald said that he usually works about nine hours a day, but Spratlin usually works 10 hours, as she is still there when he leaves, and then takes home paperwork. Spratlin said that she feels blessed to have her partner.

“He’s a good role model, especially for the guys,” Spratlin said. “Some of the guys are even thinking of going into medicine.”

Spratlin said that she sees the students in a different light than the teachers and they treat her with respect.

“Our roles are expanding as kids come to school with more health needs,” Spratlin said. “Some will come talk to us about personal issues, and we encourage them to talk to their parents. Each age group is unique and it’s very fun to see our little sixth graders, still kind of scared at the beginning of the year, as they grow. We’re lucky to have them for three years.”