Leadership for Student Health: Spotlight on School Nurse Diane Driver

March 06, 2012

After developing pneumonia and chronic fatigue syndrome, Diane Driver — who had always described herself as active and healthy — decided to shift the direction of her 22-year nursing career to take care of herself and educate children and families to do the same as a school nurse in Waukegan, Illinois. From this role, she participated in HSC’s School Nurse Leadership Program

While serving an elementary school, the School Nurse Leadership alum secured a variety of grants to promote health and wellness. Eventually, she became the district nursing supervisor. In this role, Diane's leadership was key to helping nurses and other school leaders work together. 

DDriverShe encourages school nurses to create buy-in with school administrators. Diane advises that “even with a district policy, you need to figure out how to make the building administrator passionate.” For example, one of Diane's principals was a big current events reader, so she clipped every research article on obesity and gave them to him until “he finally gave in and got rid of the vending machine.” When another principal was hesitant to give up birthday celebrations with unhealthy treats, Diane created the “You've Been Snacked” party consisting of contests, prizes, and fruit and veggies and got the students to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

Last school year, Diane again called on her leadership skills when the district decided to eliminate 13 Certified School Nurse positions. She worked with other nurses and collected data on the value of school nursing translated into dollars and presented that information, along with data on attendance reimbursement, nurses' work with special education students, Medicaid reimbursements, and issues around the Nurse Practice Act to the school board. As a result, not only did the district retain the 13 positions, but they added two additional positions that the nurses hadn't even requested! Diane explained that “our message was that we were saving students’ lives, not saving our own jobs.”

Diane’s goal is to make the public understand the value of a school nurse. “We need to talk about what we do,” she said. “They need to see how important we are to the health of the kids.”

Diane also devotes her time to mentoring new nurses in her school district and feels this type of mentoring improves job satisfaction and increased the nurses' comfort in the role. 

Most recently, she assumed the presidency of the Northlakes Division of the Illinois Association of School Nurses, “as a part of my pursuit of leadership in nursing.” She added, “I hold myself to high standards to stay current with knowledge in my profession, and actively seek ways to share my knowledge and experiences with others.” 

Kudos to Diane for her leadership for student health and for the field of school nursing!