I teach at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ where I am faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program. One of the courses I teach is a 5-day intensive class about Health Education. During the school year, I am also a full-time School Nurse in Camden and have been for 18 school years. One of my most cherished outcomes of being a school nurse is running into students and families years later.
Last summer, during my class, I was having technical difficulties and called the Rutgers IT department for assistance. They are a very responsive group and sent over someone to troubleshoot the problem. I was teaching my class when in walked a young man, dressed in his Rutgers gear, ready to help. He had a quizzical look on his face, a sheepish grin actually. I asked him if he was ok, and he said, “I know you, you were my School Nurse”. I quickly checked out his name tag and realized that yes, he had been my student for many years, but I had not seen him since he grew into adulthood.
We spontaneously hugged as I teared up in front of the entire class, and yelled out, “Of course, look at you, you are a man and I didn’t even recognize you.” I asked him to share what he remembered about his time in my Health Office. He turned to the class and said, “she was always nice to me and listened and never kicked me out.” He went on to give advice to my students about being a School Nurse and how to treat students who to come to their offices. I was so proud of him and amazed at the depth of what he shared. We just never know our impact!
This work we do is all about relationships! It was not lost on me that this student was now in a position to assist me as I had assisted him all those years ago. I marveled at the timing of this young man being sent to respond to my request for help exactly when I had a room full of School Nurse Certificate students. It was one of those serendipitous moments when the stars aligned perfectly for the sake of experiential learning. Only this moment was spontaneous, unscripted and real. I know my students in the class learned the true impact of School Nursing in that one encounter than the hours of lectures or scenarios recreated during our week-long intensive.
Our students grow up and we are privileged to be an integral part of that growth, even if we never know the outcome. Our work is important, which is why we must be Relentless School Nurses.