My Inside Look into Life as a Residential School Nurse

By MidlevelU Contributor and Pre-Nursing Student Caitlin Webb

With summer vacation allowing myself for personal time to expand on my interest, I was given the opportunity to shadow a residential school nurse at a private school in the town over from mine. The school has a handful of day students from the area who attend school during the day and go home at night, but the main focus is the vast number of students who come from all over different parts of the world to receive an education in the small country town. This creates a very different atmosphere than one would experience in a public school that only serves the town which it is in as well as impacts the tasks that each job requires. 

Because of HIPAA laws and my lack of experience, there was very little I could actually participate in. This did not impair my involvement though; it allowed me to observe how the nursing office was run and what their duties were. The day starts relatively early, expecting the nursing office to be open at least an hour before the first bell is rung. There are several residential students who need to take their medication in the morning as well as some day students whose parents would rather a license medical professional handle their prescriptions. Because of this, students are filing in and out in the morning taking their medication. Many of the kids discuss with the nurses the woes of their mornings and what the day holds for them.  I found it interesting how involved the nurses were in the kids’ lives. The conversations were about the sports game they have this afternoon and if they feel prepared, as well as even more personal topics such as if their friend is still upset with them after the fight they had the day before. No issue is too small or big to talk about. 

After the first bell is the run, throughout the day the phone never stops ringing. The nurses are in constant communication with not only the teachers but also doctor’s offices, parents, and even taxi services. Being a small residential school there is a lot of focus on the kid’s wellbeing, making sure nothing goes unnoticed. The nurses schedule doctor's appointments, make recommendations for how a child should be treated, as well as be an overall caregiver. The nurses also document whenever a child come into the office, even if it’s for something as small as a Tylenol for a headache. Knowing the specifics about when a child came into the office can be helpful later on if something more serious arises. 

Several students came in and out of the office all day from small problems such as a paper cut to more serious ones such as a concussion caused by a lacrosse stick in a game. While the problems differed in severity, the nurses treated each one with a special type of care. Many of the residential students are thousands of miles from their parents and look to the nurses for comfort similar to one a parent might give. They don’t mind being scolded and told that what they did was unsafe and careless; it means that someone cares about them on a deeper level. When I asked one of the nurses what her favorite thing about being a residential school nurse was, she told me that the school itself is a family. Teachers and nurses are focused on how well a kid is doing in their classes, if they are succeeding on other levels and most importantly, if they are happy.

While I did not get to apply any pressure to a bleeding wound or go on a call to a child who thought they broke their ankle, I got to observe how nurses play an important role in these kid's lives. What they do on a day to day basis goes beyond just giving out cough drops and calling their parents when the kids are sick. They help create a home away from home, and become a mentor to students filling them up with confidence and self-esteem. In the residential setting, the nurses take an extra step to be something more than just another faculty member. They care about the kids they treat and want to see them grow up to being something amazing.