School Nursing, Staff Wellness

The Relentless School Nurse: Meet Abby Pelletier, School Nurse/Certified Wellness Coach

cropped-logo-clip.pngThis is my School Nurse friend/colleague/Twitter buddy, Abby. She lives on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire which allows her to live and work with students in both states!  Abby has been the school nurse at Richmond Middle School for the past 11 years.  She has implemented inventive programs for her school community. Monday Mile is one example of how Abby encourages students and staff to join her in exercising together to start the week off right!

Abby is one of the most #RelentlessSchoolNurses I have ever met.  She lives her wellness warrior mantra and inspires me every day to try again!  I am so excited and honored to have Abby tell her story as my guest blogger this week! Pictured below are Abby, her workout buddy Oakley, and the mission statement she posts front and center on her school website:

A family-centered approach is important to us. Our health center recognizes the many life changes middle school students and families can encounter. We strive to support physical and mental health while promoting choices that can improve community well-being. 

For many years I worked in adult and pediatric critical care nursing. It is in this setting I witnessed the many ways a human body can deteriorate or suffer when faced with poor health care, limited access to healthy choices or sudden onset of disease. I remember taking care of a 40-year-old man hospitalized for blocked arteries, having survived a heart attack. He was waiting for surgery to unblock some arteries. When I walked into his hospital room, he was on a stressful work call, yelling at the person on the other end while also working on two laptop computers at the same time. Stress was clearly a contributing factor to the current situation at hand. However, stress reduction/ prevention was not part of the treatment or discharge plan. As a nurse with a holistic education, this lack of complete health care would frustrate me over and over. 

It was always a goal to one day deliver health care on the other end of the inpatient hospital spectrum. Prevention. Community.  A hard sell in a health care system geared toward payment for treating illness, disease, and accidents. However, while attending the University of Vermont in the early 90’s, nursing professors were progressive and already planting the seed of “Prevention. Prevention. Prevention” with their students. I heard the message loud and clear, they were very convincing. I left the critical care world and started to deliver health care in the public-school setting as a registered nurse. 

I’ve been practicing preventative health care in the school setting for some time now and in 2015 was asked by Jessica Porter, then affiliated with NASN, if I was interested in taking a course to become certified as a wellness coach. Jessica and I connected with each other through social media. Our social media tweets about prevention, wellness, and nursing often led to networking and ideas. Along with other school nurses, we completed a 5-month wellness coach course with The Institute for Wellness. All content was online and intense, comparable to graduate level work. We had weekly conference group calls, including practicing leading journal clubs through call-in meetings. All wellness coach candidates completed personal health journals that we would someday ask our own clients to do as well. Many papers, projects, and tests were completed over the 5 months. This evidenced-based program prepared us to help others assess well-being and implement tools for success in sustained healthy change. 

It is here in 2016 that I started to say now what? I was solidly sold on wellness coaching and interactive journal sessions but how and when to implement? What will work in the district I am in? When is the timing right? How do I market this as an appealing and worthwhile process?  I had several opportunities to present what I’ve learned and share tools with other professionals at conferences but still was looking to implement something in our district. So, I waited until the timing was right.

I found a window of opportunity during our insurance sponsored flu clinic, the insurance representative was present. I realized this was it, time for the elevator pitch. Time to share a wellness concept I’d been thinking about for over a year. I shared that the staff has indicated interest and readiness to lose weight but frustrated at how to get started and lack of support. I wanted to help. How about combining a weight loss program with interactive journal sessions lead by a Registered Nurse Wellness Coach? A program called TCOY or Taking Care of You. 

The following week I received an email from the wellness branch of our insurance company indicating interest in TCOY. I completed a proposal in which I shared overview, objectives, web links supporting the objectives, duration of program and Total Cost. I didn’t hear anything for 3 months. January 2018 an email stating the wellness proposal TCOY (Taking Care of You) was approved.

Rolling out the TCOY program to district staff is almost ready- still working out a few details. One component I’m excited about is that the interactive journal sessions will take place from the comfort of the participants home through google meeting with myself and other participants. Up to 6 staff members from our district will have an opportunity to participate. Each person who completes the 12-week program will receive a $75 wellness reimbursement from the insurance company. In addition to the reimbursement, for a 3-month period, staff will have had the opportunity to reflect on 4 domains of wellness (physical, stress, eating, and relationships) and to work toward their personal weight loss goals.

Like any new adventure, the road ahead remains to be seen. There will be successes, failures, and growth. Moving on. Ready to support, cheer and guide.” -Abby Pelletier 

Congratulations Abby for being a visionary #RelentlessSchoolNurse and putting your goals and dreams for a healthy community into action! We hope you will join us in the very near future and let us know how your program is progressing!  We can all be inspired by your dedication, vision, and leadership. I am proud to call you my friend!  You have inspired me to write a school health vision statement too!


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