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The Many Roles of Today’s School Nurse

Like other school-based health professionals across the nation, Carmen Hill strives to support the overall health of students.

For students to achieve, they must first have their most basic needs met. This includes staying healthy. Meet Carmen Hill, a school nurse in St. Louis, Miss., who helps students do just that. Like other school-based health professionals across the nation, Hill treats sick students and educates them about maintaining healthy lifestyles.

Hill’s school days begin earlier this year than they have in the past.  She is her school’s only medical professional, and Hill knows that in today’s world more and more public school students have chronic medical conditions, which means school nurses like her are busier than ever.

Hill dispenses medication, monitors students with asthma, diabetes, and severe allergies, performs first aid, helps children with ADHD or bipolar disorder, and tends to students with coughs, fevers, and sore throats. Hill also assesses students for possible abuse, counsels students who are bullied, and even provides snacks to hungry students.

“I usually buy some snacks and cereal to have in my office so if a child comes in hungry, they have something to eat,” Hill says. The children have such enormous needs that it’s easy to become overwhelmed, she adds.

“I have to take care of my kids so they can go back to class and learn,” she says. "There are many schools that don’t have a school nurse at all, but my school is fortunate to have a school nurse full time. If I weren’t here, who would take care of the sick kids? The other school staff would have to provide medical treatment, and they do not possess the training needed to do the task!”

Hill also works with community foundations, charities, and businesses to get her kids the dental and vision care they need. She teams up with the Kids Vision 4 Life program for vision screenings, eye exams and new eyeglasses, and Gateway Dental for free on-site dental checkups and procedures. Throughout the school year, Healthy Kids Express comes to Gateway to provide resources for children and families suffering from asthma.

While her students’ physical health is Hill’s chief concern, she also cares deeply about their self-esteem, personal character, and world view. Under her guidance, about 20 girls make their way to Hill’s office every Thursday after school to participate in Girls R Inc. The program focuses on five areas: beauty, health and hygiene, growth and development, nutrition and exercise, fashion and etiquette. Hill teaches the girls about matters big and small:  from coping with stress and anger, proper nutrition, and oral hygiene, to the importance of daily exercise.

“I always had great mentors growing up,” Hill says. “I’m just giving back." Hill says her work springs from a love of children. “I’ve been a hospital nurse for 38 years and a school nurse for 20 years, and I love to nurture in both the school and hospital setting. It’s part of my genetic makeup. I love to provide the hugs, encouragement, and inspiration that all children need.”

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ESPs are School Superheroes! Read about other education support professionals throughout the U.S. going above and beyond at Nea.org/espwholestudent.


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