Every Day and in Emergencies, School Nurses Keep Students Safe

September 12, 2014

Going above and beyond for students

This spring, we proudly announced the winners of our first-ever School Nurse Leadership Award. The award, created in partnership with School Health magazine and Maico Diagnostics, is a way for Healthy Schools Campaign to acknowledge the tireless commitment that school nurses make to their students and communities. The five winners and four honorable mentions selected from across the country represent school nurses who are blazing new trails in their field, reimagining the role that school nurses play in school health and wellness, students’ academic success and the health of the larger community. In this blog, we highlight honorable mention recipient Deanna Dubay.

For Deanna Dubay, a school nurse in Saginaw, Michigan, there’s no such thing as an average day. Being a school nurse means being on call, ready to address whatever emergencies arise. Whether it’s a student experiencing a seizure or a fire drill that affects the whole school, she’s there. But what about other staff members? How can the whole school community be prepared to respond in an emergency?

That’s where Deanna has truly made her mark as a school nurse. Drawing on her emergency medicine background, she realized it was important to have a robust evacuation plan for the building. Especially in a district with many special needs students who rely on regular medications.

She says, “We asked, ‘What’s the safest way we can get these children out of the building?’ Then we got a committee together and started talking about it. We went from ‘Get everyone out of the building and worry about it later’ to a plan where we have the building divided into four sections, with an area monitor for each.”

From there, each area monitor is empowered to assess the needs of their group, and there’s a chain of command to rely on if situations become harrowing.

Emergency planning may seem above and beyond her job description, but it’s just another part of being a school nurse. She drew on her master’s coursework for the initial research; she then reached out for broader expertise from local health resources.

Deanna is constantly working to make the school safer and healthier for all. Now that a fire emergency plan is in place, she is working on plans concerning other emergency scenarios, such as school shootings and tornadoes. She’s surprised by how much attention her work has received. “It just snowballed into this whole big thing,” she says. But that’s a very good thing for ensuring schools are ready for any emergency. “I look at schools now and I don’t know how schools function without it,” she says.

She hasn’t done it alone, though. She reminds other school nurses: “You can call hospitals or emergency services and ask for help. Utilize the resources that are available. We’ve called hospitals’ infection control, for example. They'll give us some guidance, and we put those ideas into place.”

As for other school nurses starting their careers or blazing new trails, she fully recommends reaching out to others. “You just can’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says. “There’s no book telling you what to do.”

Congratulations to Deanna for being recognized as a national school nurse leader!