Diabetes Q&A with a School Nurse

Q&A

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Today I have the privilege of sharing with you a great Q&A conversation I was able to have with an elementary school nurse. She cares for any of the kids in the school, but she sees those with diabetes more often and is able to develop wonderful relationships with them and their parents. Here’s what Nurse Amy shared with me: 

QUESTION: What initially interested you in becoming a school nurse? 

ANSWER: Prior to becoming a school nurse, I worked in a hospital setting for nearly 15 years, and I always considered myself a “lifer” to bedside nursing. It wasn’t until my daughter broke her wrist at school that her school nurse and I just hit it off. She was awesome! Her calm demeanor and the compassion she had for my daughter was simply amazing. Over time, she and I would chit chat about our careers, and one day she asked if I would ever consider becoming a school nurse. I had never really thought of myself in that field of nursing, but after picking her brain, I thought I could. So, I did a lot of praying and my path became perfectly clear… I was ready to make the leap, and here I am today.  

Q: Do you have any connection to diabetes outside of your school nurse role? 

A: I do have a connection with diabetes outside of my nursing role. I grew up with a grandmother who had type 1 diabetic. She never made a big deal about having diabetes – it was just part of her story. She was very open about her diabetes with us grandchildren, which I believe was very helpful in understanding why she would check her blood sugar or quickly grab a snack from her purse (which was always Rolos) when she felt low. We understood why she was doing what she had to, to stay healthy.

Q: Can you briefly take us through the high points of what your typical day as a school nurse is like?

A: Oh, that’s easy! My high points are my relationships with my students, especially my kiddos with diabetes. Afterall, we spend the most time together on a daily basis. I get to be one of the first faces they see in the morning when they come in and drop off their supplies. This gives me the opportunity to converse with them about their evening, weekend, family trip, or any other specific details following previous conversations. My favorite is when my students come in the clinic and say, “Nurse Amy, guess what!” 

I love establishing rapport not only with them, but their parents. Having a child with diabetes, especially newly diagnosed, can be an extremely scary and an overwhelming experience. This is where my other high point comes into play. Not only do I take care of my students with diabetes, but I also take care of their parents. The absolute best compliment I have received from a parent is, “I never worry when little Timmy is with you. I know you’ve got him, and I don’t even follow his blood sugar levels anymore while he is at school.” If I can give those parents that peace of mind so they can let go and not worry about where their child’s blood sugar levels are, and know their child is completely safe, then I have accomplished my goal.

school nurse

Q: Do you find opportunities to educate kids with diabetes as you help them throughout the day? 

A: Absolutely! I feel that is my job as their nurse – not only to keep them safe, but to educate them and help them to become more independent when managing their diabetes. Any opportunity I can give them to check their own blood sugar, fill in their daily logs, help them troubleshoot a high or low blood sugar level and/or the symptoms they may be feeling, etc., I try to take full advantage of. 

One of the most important lessons that I try to instill in my students with diabetes is the reassurance that it’s not their fault that they have diabetes and, though it may be scary when you feel those high or low blood sugar levels, they are not alone. We will fix it together.

Q: As the mother of a child with diabetes, my co-blogger Brandy says her school nurse is basically an extension of herself during the school day. How do you view your partnership with parents?

A: I couldn’t agree more! School nurses and parents of students with diabetes should work very closely with one another. As a nurse having years of experience with diabetes, I still learn something new every day from my students with diabetes. That is because each student’s plan is unique, and what works for one student may not work for the other. Also, what worked one day for a particular student may not work the next day. Care and treatment are forever changing, and for many different reasons. That is why my best resource in navigating what is best for my students are their parents.  

Q: How do you communicate with parent(s)? 

A: As I stated above, communication is key in establishing a safe and successful plan for a student with diabetes, especially those newly diagnosed. In these beginning phases, I am probably on the phone with these parents off and on throughout the day, whether reassuring them that their child is safe and with me during a high or low blood sugar, giving specific details on plan of care, troubleshooting or anticipating a student’s needs, and much more. Once rapport is established with parents and a level of trust has grown, the goal is to communicate through the student’s diabetic log. Information listed is typically blood sugar readings, carbohydrate intake, insulin amounts given, treatments for highs/lows and any other little notes of communication between nurse and parents.  

Q: You deal with a lot of things as a school nurse, I’m sure. But diabetes isn’t the same as a kid scraping their knee and needing a Band-Aid one day. This is an everyday thing. How do you stay on top of it? 

A: It is accurate to say that monitoring and caring for a student with diabetes is an everyday thing, but it’s more like an every minute thing. Having a strong background in diabetes is obviously helpful, because I understand the diagnosis. People with diabetes have so many more resources available to them than back when my grandmother was maintaining hers. 

Technology plays an important role in monitoring blood sugar readings and administering insulin. Many of my students use a Dexcom which is a blood sugar monitoring device that can be linked to any smart phone, tablet, or computer. I keep an iPad in my clinic which has all of my students’ Dexcom’s linked to it. This enables me to monitor their blood sugars no matter where they are in the building. In turn, it notifies me if a student’s blood sugar goes above or below parameters. This is extremely helpful, because many times I can access the student before a serious issue may arise. Let’s be honest though, as a school nurse, I do not wait for an alert. I am glancing at that iPad constantly, making sure our students are safe.    

Although technology can be convenient and useful, it is not 100% perfect and can fail. This is where the education component becomes super important. I always educate my students to listen to their bodies first before relying on their levels on their Dexcom. An example would be if the student feels like their blood sugar is low, but their Dexcom shows an acceptable blood sugar. I educate them to trust themselves in how they feel, and to tell an adult. In our school this would be their teacher, so their teacher can notify me. Not only is it my responsibility to educate the student, but I also educate all of our staff who will have a student with diabetes in their classroom. This collaboration of staff, student, and nurse is a well-rounded educated team that ensures the safety and wellbeing of the student.  

Q: Can you share with us a bit of your faith story? 

A: I began my journey with Jesus as a practicing Catholic. Over the years, I just did not feel fulfilled spiritually. I just always felt as I were simply going through the motions at church. I wanted more! Now, this is not intended as a shot to Catholicism. These are just my individual feelings and my journey with God.

My journey began in 2012. My mother was extremely sick – so sick we almost lost her. I was her caregiver (daughter/nurse) and working nightshift full time at the hospital. If I wasn’t working, I was taking care of my mom, trying to juggle family life with my husband and two little ones, and doing so on little to no sleep. Church took a back seat during this time. 

While I was going through this with my mom, my husband and children starting going to church with his parents to a non-denominational Christian church. He really enjoyed it and kept inviting me to come. I was always hesitant to go somewhere other than a Catholic church. I was raised to believe it was a sin to leave the Catholic church. However, I wasn’t attending there either, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I finally accepted to go. 

It was such a spiritual experience. Between the worship and the message, I felt Jesus was talking directly to me. I just remember crying in service, asking myself, how can this be wrong? This was the closest I had ever felt to God. The feeling was indescribable. From that moment on, we never looked back. My family and I belong to Element Church in Wentzville, and my relationship with God grows stronger every day. 

Q: How has your faith played a role in how you help children with diabetes? 

A: My faith plays a very important role in how I help all of my students, not just those with diabetes. I believe starting my day off with Jesus sets the tone for the day. I pray a prayer every morning on my way to work. I ask Him to please allow me to be His vessel. To guide me during my assessments, open my eyes, ears, heart, and mind. To let my hands be His healing hands. I pray He would please grant me His grace and patience during any stressors that may arise. With this prayer, I am ready to tackle my day. No matter what obstacle I face, big or small, I know He’s got this! 

Q: Is there a verse that comes to mind that applies to your role as a school nurse caring for children with diabetes?

A: A bible verse that always resonates with me is in Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

I believe this verse means trust in my abilities as a nurse, for they are a gift from God. No matter what is thrown my way, I am not alone. He is always walking beside me.

Q: What would you say to parents of a child with diabetes who is about to change schools or enter school for the first time?

A: I would recommend getting to know their school nurse. He or she is an extension of the parents. Developing that relationship early on will help build that open line of communication and establish trust more quickly. 

If I have a student with diabetes moving on to a new school, I reassure those parents that I will openly communicate with the nurse at the new school. This helps give him or her an understanding of that student’s plan of care and what worked best in specific scenarios. I encourage parents to do the same before their child makes their transition.


Nurse Amy

Amy lives in St. Charles County in Missouri with her husband and two children. She currently works as a nurse within a local school district. During her downtime, Amy enjoys camping, four-wheeling, hiking, boating, movie nights, and attending sporting events with her family. 


PIN FOR LATER:

A School Nurse's View of Diabetes at School

OTHER Q&A BLOG POSTS:

Diabetes at School: Q&A with a Fourth Grader

Q&A: Managing Multiple Chronic Illnesses

Q&A: A Wife’s Perspective on Diabetes

Q&A with a Diabetes Coach

 

 

 

 

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