School Nurses Keep Students Healthy
May 5, 2020 - Livermore, CA - “My tummy hurts.” When a child utters those words at school, the school nurse is there to offer care and comfort. When asthma attacks, the school nurse is there to alleviate breathing difficulties. When a student with Type 1 diabetes needs blood sugar monitoring or an insulin treatment, the school nurse is there to ensure good health. And when a student is feeling depressed or anxious, the school nurse is there to provide mental health support.
Most Livermore families first meet school nurses when they register at the Kindergarten Fair, and they get to know the nurses over the years. We all know that our school’s Nurse’s Office is a calm, safe place tucked into a room near the main office where students can get help. Along with three health technicians - Kimberly Adams, Nola Rechtin, and Denise Roberts - six school nurses coordinate their schedules to serve all students, staff, and families throughout the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD). They bring education, experience, and a love of children to their work. Their goal is to keep our students healthy, safe and ready to learn.
Carolyn Reggiardo serves the students at Altamont Creek Elementary, Jackson Ave Elementary, East Ave Middle, and Livermore High Schools. A registered nurse (RN) since 1990, Reggiardo provided acute care in a level 2 trauma center in San Jose, and served as a labor and delivery nurse in both San Jose and at ValleyCare in Pleasanton. For over 15 years, she has supported LVJUSD students from TK - 12th grade. “I love watching students grow and I am continually amazed by their resilience, maturity, and commitment to their education,” said Reggiardo.
Depending on the day of the week, Julie Howard helps students at Christensen Middle, Junction Ave K-8, Livermore High, or Arroyo Seco Elementary. School nursing has been her calling for 17 years, following 15 years as an RN with Children’s Hospital and AXIS. Howard loves the daily camaraderie with staff as well as with students and families. “I look forward to being back together in person at the earliest, safest opportunity,” she said.
Now that schools are dismissed, the Nurse’s Office may be quiet, but our dedicated team of health professionals is more active than ever. District nurses continue to work very closely with the Superintendent and District Leadership, along with the School Board, as COVID-19 evolves in our community. “I count on our nurses to provide public health expertise and advice as we navigate this pandemic,” said Superintendent Kelly Bowers. Nurses have been assisting with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) procurement and distribution, food distribution, and they have been providing medical information and resources needed now and as we plan to return to classrooms.
Just as teachers are active on Webex and Zoom, nurses continue to participate in online IEP meetings, Coordination of Services (COST) meetings, Parent Liaison meetings, and planning meetings in anticipation of reopening school sites. Jennifer Daily, who serves Sunset Elementary and Granada High communities, said “I love working directly with students and miss that personal connection right now.” Daily has 22 years experience in health care, earning her Bachelors in Nursing at Brigham Young University, and both her Masters in Nursing and her School Nursing Credential at California State University, Sacramento.
School nursing is a highly specialized area of nursing practice which requires advanced education and clinical preparation. A credentialed school nurse must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, be licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing, and complete an approved credential program consisting of 25 university credits and 2 years of clinical experience as a school nurse.
Cat Arthur, an RN and Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (C-FNP) uses her previous professional experience at Kaiser Permanente and Stanford ValleyCare to serve the preschool children at Croce Elementary and the communities of Marylin Ave Elementary and Del Valle Continuation High. “I wanted to work in my community assisting multicultural families not only academically, but in a whole person approach as well,” said Arthur when asked why she became a school nurse. “School nursing has allowed me to reach across Livermore utilizing my nursing skills, my bilingual education, and my love for students with special needs.”
LVJUSD nurses work with Child Welfare Specialists and school administrators to ensure District families have their basic physical needs met. Nurses know families by name and know their housing, food, and medical care needs. They know which students and families need mental health support, and routinely match families with community resources. District nurses also help safely transition students toward independence in their health care needs at school and home.
“It is so rewarding when you work with the family, student, school staff and other providers to put a plan in place to best support a student in the school setting,” said Laura Curran, who serves Lawrence Elementary, Smith Elementary, Vineyard Alternative, and Mendenhall Middle Schools. For 17 years, Curran has loved the challenge and variety of serving as a school nurse. “No two days are alike, and I thrive on that,” she said. In addition to her previous hospital work as an urgent care and labor and delivery nurse, Curran has worked in an asthma clinic and was part of the team that launched the Student Health Center at Ohlone College.
For 11 years, students at Rancho Elementary, Joe Michell K-8, and Granada High have thrived under the care and support of Shelley Casey. “I’m inspired by helping students learn to cope with and grow from the health related challenges that they face. To see them overcome obstacles and succeed is so rewarding,” said Casey. An RN with 29 years of nursing experience, Casey earned her Bachelors in Nursing from San Diego State University and her School Nurse Credential from California State University, Fresno.
Although COVID-19 has interrupted the daily routines of school nurses, they continue to implement and oversee state-mandated programs such as vaccine compliance, vision and hearing, and oral health. They monitor and follow up on health conditions for current as well as incoming students. And they provide guidance so that teachers and paraeducators know how to care for students in an educational setting. “Our nurses and health technicians provide critical support so that our students can learn when school is in session, and especially now that we are distance learning,” said Bowers.