Maryellen Grace ’77, featured in her local newspaper
Maryellen Grace ’77, a middle school nurse featured in her local newspaper, on the changing role of school nurses in today’s challenging times.
Children’s health is a complicated picture these days, says Maryellen Grace, who has been the nurse at Ledyard Middle School since 2008. Early childhood immunizations have strengthened physical health, and with it, students’ ability to learn, Grace said. On the other hand, cases of childhood diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma and autism are increasing, making school nursing a challenging full-time job.
Q: How has the job of a school nurse changed?
A: When I started in nursing, it was a part-time job. When I first got to Connecticut, I started in Waterford, working with special-needs children. There are more and more needs today. Happily, we have health assistants, and the nurse who had the job before me comes back to substitute. This way, we stay pretty connected with the families.
Q: How much of a role does money play in the life of a school nurse?
A: There is a desire today to keep special-needs children within the district because it’s more expensive to send them out. There is the desire to cut down on the budget. But there is a commitment to health here. We have a wellness center, and we have yoga. I’m always encouraging people to drink more water.
Q: Do video games hurt children’s health?
A: The computer games are tough to overcome. Children are just sitting there watching the games. We try to get them physically active. We stress healthy foods and eating right. I see 30 to 35 students a day. We’re a very healthy building. Flu hasn’t been a problem for us recently, but that year where H1N1 was everywhere, I was sending home 20 to 25 students a day.
Q: What got you interested in nursing?
A: I never wanted to be a nurse, but then I volunteered at a local (New Jersey) hospital, then worked in a doctor’s office. I enjoyed the people and learning about them. I decided to major in nursing in college while thinking that I could switch to another of the sciences. But I didn’t switch, and now I love what I do.
Q: How important is it for nurses to enjoy interacting with people?
A: It’s very important. I enjoy attending to the teachers’ needs as well as the children. I enjoy teaching the parents. If you’re working with children, you have to love what you’re doing.
Q: Does attending to seventh- and eighth-graders present any special difficulties?
A: At this age, students are starting to become independent. They’re looking to do things for themselves. Attitudes are changing, and some adults don’t handle that well. But in understanding this, I get to enjoy the children.
Q: Did many students come to talk to you about the Newtown school killings?
A: Not that many. It rattled us more as adults, I think. They (the students) were talking about it much more amongst themselves. One student asked if we would protect her, and of course the answer was yes.
Article courtesy of The Bulletin; photo courtesy of James Mosher/NorwichBulletin.com.