School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: What Happened at School Today – Featuring Kerri Pennington, MSN, RN

Meet Kerri Pennington, a Texas school nurse, who is sharing her story of #WhatHappenedAtSchoolToday.  You will be as inspired as I was when you read how her efforts have created new pathways for student success in her rural Texas school. Kerri’s story describes the impact of our work and how it can change the trajectory of a student’s school experience. How do you quantify that?

When I first saw Kerri’s picture, (after admiring those beautiful wings, which were made by her students in their Adventure Lab), I focused on the message on her t-shirt:  Keep Calm You have a School Nurse.  It is true, her students and school community are very fortunate that they do have a school nurse. So many schools across the country do not.

By telling our stories and sharing the impact of our work we can influence policy through being visible and vocal. It’s time to no longer tolerate the intolerable.  We have left it up to others for too long. It’s our turn to give voice to what we really do, and it’s not playing cards!

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Kerri Pennington, MSN, RN

Today, I worked with the special needs department to initiate limited independent activities for one of my student’s with muscular dystrophy.  As the school nurse on campus, I recognized how my student’s “acting out” behavior was really a cry for independence.  Now I see this student eating lunch at the table with his classmates, wheeling himself down the hall beside other students, waiting in the lunch line with other children, and maintaining his personal dignity with private bathroom times.  I was able to work with the mother and occupational therapy to change the overall school experience for this child and educate and assure the school personnel that these were safe activities for him.

I worked with a family of a first grader who was complaining of his “heart hurting.”  The real story was that this student was struggling with his asthma.  After assessing the situation, I worked with the mother to provide an inhaler at school.  This is a pretty common care coordination activity for a school nurse but the real problem was revealed by the mother.  She said, “I don’t think my doctor is taking his asthma seriously.”  The mother began to connect the constant coughing in the mornings at home and the child’s asthma and made a follow-up appointment with the physician.  My student is now working on understanding his asthma, effective use of his inhaler, and maintaining his pre-exercise administration times.  It is a great joy to see his developing confidence in managing his asthma.  (On a side note, he also hit his head on his desk and got a mild concussion but that was another part of the story….)

Workload: My Elementary school in southeast Texas serves 540 children, first through fifth grade and 50 staff members.  Our school serves a rural community that qualifies for 61% free or reduced lunch and 7 bilingual classrooms (1st through 3rd grade).  Our school demographics are 62.6% Hispanic, 30.7% White, and 4.8% African American.  I have one Life skills classroom and one Special Education classroom.

Our district has 6 schools with an RN at each school serving 6133 students.

Bio:  I am from a small town in Ohio and am the first child of my generation to graduate college.  I graduated with a diploma in nursing in 1992 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio, completed my BSN from Mount Carmel College of Nursing in 2010, and finally, completed my MSN with a focus in Nursing Education from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas in 2017.  My experience spans 27 years of professional practice in Medical Surgical, Perinatal Nursing, Hospital-based Nursing Education, Corporate Nursing Education, and now School Nursing (2 years).  I chose school nursing because I have a great interest in Care Coordination (MSN- EBPP) and wanted to practice in an independent community setting.  School Nursing has been a real transition from the acute care setting!  School Nursing challenges me to draw from all of my experience but also learn new things every day!

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