School Nurse Credited for Saving Child’s Life

January 20, 2014

A school nurse saves a life.

If not for his school nurse, Zachary Mathina may have never known that anything was wrong with him. His possibly life-threatening condition of a blocked aorta and bad aortic valve was discovered during a routine health screening at school.

A story from WMCTV reported: “He came through my line to get his blood pressure checked. It was high. I checked the other arm and it was high as well,” said Elisha Childress, school nurse. He was taken to his pediatrician, where it was discovered there was almost no blood flow to Zachary's heart or the lower part of his body. Ultimately Mathina ended up having surgery and a stent put in.

This is just one great example of the integral role school nurses play in creating a healthy school environment. On an individual basis, they can foster personal relationships with every student. Beyond administering routine–and clearly vital–checkups, including eye and hearing exams and blood pressure screenings, they enable students to feel comfortable seeking help with emotional, social or physical problems. They’re prepared to help resolve any issues that get in the way of a student’s learning.

Additionally, school nurses can contribute to fostering healthier physical school environments, too. Whether it is creating a wellness team, speaking with janitorial staff about adopting green cleaning methods, or providing students with health education, they’re champions for health and wellness in their schools in every respect.

Zachary’s story is just one example of the impact school nurses can have on the lives of students. And yet, often due to budgetary constraints, less than half of the schools in the nation have a full-time school nurse. In many cases, students may only have access to a school nurse one or two days a week, if at all. We believe we need to address the barriers that limit funding for school health services. Check out our recommendations to increase access in our Health in Mind report here.

At HSC, we love to see school nurses get public recognition for all that they do. Because of this, on February 5, 2014 we will be launching our first annual School Nurse Leadership Award. For more information to to receive the application when it’s launched, sign up here: http://healthyschoolscampaign.org/programs/school-nurse-leadership/award/