Saluting our School Nurse Leaders

September 23, 2020

Phyllis Pelt and Martha Bergren at Cooking up Change 2017

By Rochelle Davis

Healthy Schools Campaign is dedicated to making schools healthier places where all children can learn and thrive. We advocate at the local, state and national levels, and that work is directly informed by our on-the-ground work with students, parents, teachers, school staff, administrators and school nurses. It is amazing what you can learn and do when your work is directly informed by people who are in schools every day!

Today, we want to celebrate Martha Bergren and Phyllis Pelt, two former school nurses who are an important part of the Healthy Schools Campaign family. Martha Bergren was just named executive editor of the Journal of School Nursing, and next month, Phyllis Pelt will receive the UIC College of Nursing’s 2020 Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award . Martha and Phyllis have been powerful leaders as school nurses, as school nurse educators and as advocates for the important leadership role that school nurses can and should have in the school setting.

Some of the most important policy work we have taken on in recent years has grown out of our work with school nurses, and Martha and Phyllis have been a key part of building those relationships and our knowledge base. Martha and Phyllis helped develop and lead Healthy Schools Campaign’s School Nurse Leadership Training Program which provided intensive leadership training to 125 school nurses who have gone on to support hundreds of thousands of students and make significant policy and practice changes in their schools and districts.

It was through our School Nurse Leadership Training Program that we learned that school nurses were being asked to cover more and more school buildings and spend most of their time doing paperwork instead of seeing students. We looked deeper and found a troubling national trend that was even starker in schools serving students of color. This led to the launch of our groundbreaking work to change how school health services are funded through Medicaid. To date, Healthy Schools Campaign has helped 15 states access Medicaid funding for school health services, and the results are clear – more students are receiving crucial health services and more school nurses are being hired!

Martha Bergren and Phyllis Pelt have been a central part of Healthy Schools Campaign in their roles as board members, as founders and inaugural trainers for our School Nurse Leadership Training Program and now as long-time supporters and a continuous source of information and inspiration. We are honored to have Martha and Phyllis in the HSC family, we congratulate them on their outstanding achievements, and we thank them and all school nurses for their incredible work and dedication to children.