Harns March’s Melissa Wallace named School Nurse of the Year | News, Sports, Jobs

Harns Marsh Elementary and Middle School Nurse Melissa Wallace was surprised with a parade by her East County School Nurses last week after she was named School Nurse of the Year. PHOTO PROVIDED

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A nurse who splits her time between Harns-Marsh Elementary School and Harns-Marsh Middle School was surprised with a high honor last week – she was named School Nurse of the Year.

“I was totally shocked” said Melissa Wallace.

The surprise started when a late meeting was scheduled for 3:30 pm, which she found kind of strange, but then she thought they were all so busy. She left the building at 4 p.m. because a parent needed to speak to her, but was pleasantly surprised when her family, friends, and colleagues greeted her with balloons. In addition, all of the school nurses in the east zone held a parade for them as they drove past their cars with signs.

The School Nurse of the Year award began in 2004. District spokesman Rob Spicker said school nurses are nominated by their school principal and then a committee reviews the applications, selects finalists and conducts interviews to select a winner who receives a plaque.

Before Wallace began her nursing career in the Lee County School District, always in the East Zone, nine years ago, Wallace was a maternity and childbirth nurse in Naples. She married a teacher, and if they were expecting their first child it might be nice to have the same schedule. A good friend told her about the job of a school nurse and she applied.

“I never thought I would do that when I went to nursing school. Now I’m here nine years later. It suits me absolutely perfectly. “ said Wallace. “I love being with these students and being able to change their lives, especially with the people in the Eastern Zone. Families need so much. It’s a great feeling to be able to help you buy new glasses, make medical appointments or help you get insurance. “

There are just under 1,000 pupils in primary school and just under 1,400 pupils in middle school. Wallace has a full-time clinical assistant at both schools, both of whom are trained in drug delivery.

“I am the only RN between the two schools” She said.

Wallace usually spends two days a week at each school. At the beginning of the year the fifth day is devoted to demonstrations and at the end of the year it goes where it is more needed.

She said sometimes it is nice to take a break from one place while sometimes it is difficult to be split between the two schools because they both need them at the same time. When this happens it results in a phone call where she does assessments over the phone.

“I love every second of it” said Wallace.

After eight years at Harns Marsh, this year she is saying goodbye to eighth graders with whom she has been with since kindergarten age.

“They know me and know who I am and hopefully the parents trust me and that helps too.” said Wallace. “Building relationships with them was so nice, I’ll definitely miss them.”

Being a school nurse doesn’t mean hardship “Plaster and ice pack”, She said.

This school year was a year like never before. In addition to her normal duties as a school nurse – creating care schedules, administering medication, and training staff – Wallace also had to keep pace with guidelines that sometimes changed daily. She then shared guidelines with parents and families that did not always make them happy.

She said she tried to convey understanding to the families “We didn’t make the rules, they come from the CDC guidelines and this is a struggle in itself.”

In addition, a healthy clinic room and a COVID isolation room had to be set up, which Wallace said also included training staff. She said it had been a full year to fill it all in, train it and achieve it all.

“The kids were amazing. You are so resilient and so flexible. It surprised us all. “ Wallace said, adding that it was said earlier in the school year that children will never wear masks all day. “You do and have. They are flexible and can follow whatever we ask of them. “

With this in mind, COVID has presented students with other challenges, such as mental health problems. Wallace said some of these issues were due to their parents’ separation anxiety after spending so much time with them when schools closed in the fourth quarter of last year, fear of being in the school building, COVID information on the news Heard as well as the finances affect many families.

Often times, financial repercussions were felt from sending a child home in quarantine for 10 days as this had repercussions on the family and parents who took time off work.

Wallace said all of their schools have a school mental health team made up of school counselors, social workers, school nurses, and sometimes teachers and administrative staff.

“We meet with students and talk to parents to see what the needs are” She said, adding that this could result in being provided with food, clothing or advice depending on their needs.

Even so, Wallace still loves being a school nurse to this day. She loves it most when glasses are shipped from her vision program, a relationship with Vision Quest which offers free eye exams and glasses.

“I love it when the glasses come and I give the students brand new glasses. Some of them didn’t know that they couldn’t see anything beforehand. “ She said, adding that students often say they can see the poster across the room when they put on the glasses. “Little did they know it was a problem for them.”

The team she works with makes her job easier, both her school families and the other nurses in the East Zone.

“I am very grateful to be working with the team I work with, be it schools or other nurses in the East Zone. It’s very nice to have a team that you can rely on and that no matter what. Neither of us would have made it without the other. “ said Wallace. “My school families let me do my job and appreciate my expertise. I really appreciate that, because that’s not always the case. “

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