School Nurse Educates Others on Diabetes Care

August 25, 2014

Winner Katherine Park

This spring, HSC was proud to announce the winners of our first-ever School Nurse Leadership Award. It’s an award that acknowledges the tireless commitments that school nurses make, created in partnership with School Health magazine and Maico Diagnostics. 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 speak with winner Katherine Park.

When it comes to chronic health conditions, school nurses can be a critical lifeline to treatment, advice and day-to-day wellness management. A missed dose or a change in routine can definitely spell trouble for kids with conditions such as asthma and diabetes. Award winner Katherine Park, a school nurse in the Parkway School District in Missouri, has elevated that role to an inspiring new level. She is making sure that others learn about diabetes care and management, too.

It began when she was a master’s student. During her coursework, she focused on Type 1 diabetes. But soon, real-world needs came to the forefront. About 50 students with diabetes were spread out across the district. She says: “Any school nurse who has worked with just one student with diabetes knows the time involved, the commitment and care, and education that’s needed. You need to go a lot more into depth than with other health conditions such as asthma.”

Then, a few years ago, a school nurse had to leave the building suddenly for her own medical emergency. But there were three young children with diabetes, relying on her for care. No one else knew how to step in. For Katherine, the solution was clear. School nurses shouldn’t be the only ones who can help care for students with diabetes. She resolved to make sure that they don’t have to be.

Drawing on her master’s degree, she adapted a training program from the American Diabetes Association to meet the district’s needs. She also surveyed the knowledge of school staff, gathered lots of information and research on her district’s needs, and met with decision makers to spread the word about why training was needed.

The result is a hands-on training, designed especially for participants to work with actual equipment and gain practical skills. To get supplies and resources that were needed, such as syringes, she reached out to her state school nurse consultant. This connection paid off — supplies were donated, and since 2009, Katherine has trained nearly 40 non-medical staff in diabetes basics and emergency care.

But momentum didn’t stop there. Around this time, state-level legislation was being proposed, asking schools to develop guidelines around diabetes training. The timing was perfect for Katherine to jump in. She was invited to join a panel of experts, brainstorming with high-level professionals from the American Diabetes Association and others about how to train non-medical staff in diabetes care.

“I have really enjoyed doing this program,” Katherine says. “I didn’t know if it would even be lasting, and here we are, five years later, and I’m still doing training.”

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