School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: What Happened At School Today – Reflections on Practice


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Tessa McIlraith, BSN, RN

5 years into school nursing. Tessa McIlraith did some therapeutic reflection on her school nursing practice. I think she speaks for all of us when she wrote this:

What I didn’t know

I didn’t know how many times I would hear a trembling voice telling me their child had cancer.
I didn’t know I’d be cleaning your self inflicted wounds and would be the only one to say I’m glad you showed up today.
I didn’t know you would overdose and die.
I didn’t know I’d be the voice for your family when a new diagnosis changed your life forever.
I didn’t know I’d be the first to know you were expecting and the first to share your joy.
I didn’t know I would be the relationship expert.
I didn’t know how much your parent would yell at me.
I didn’t know how much I would help you breathe and help you walk into class…one more time.
I didn’t know I’d be the place you come to cry, to laugh, to just be.
I didn’t know you would get hit by a car.
I didn’t know how many times I would have to tell you that you cannot play in your last playoff game.
I didn’t know how much strength I had.

What I did know…

Is that you matter!
You are so brave.
You are seen and heard.
You are missed.
You change my life every day!

Your School Nurse

Bio of Tessa McIlraith, BSN, RN:
I started my nursing career as a CNA and worked my way from LPN to BSN. School nursing has been an amazing adventure. I love working with students and families for a longer duration throughout their education. It is gratifying seeing students learn to navigate their health and education goals. Leadership and advocacy are vital to being a school nurse. As a medical professional in the education setting, I must keep up on a variety of skills and knowledge about a very widespread practice. My goal is to be an asset to my community for health and well-being. Our practice is based on evidence-based practices and we are professionals. As the Legislative Chair of our state school nurse organization, I am a voice that helps our legislators and administrators fully understand and acknowledge the work school nurses do. I also enjoy the outdoors, own a farm, teach at a dance studio and have a wonderful, active family!
Workload: I currently am a District nurse overseeing 2 other amazing registered nurses and 9 health assistants. My caseload includes preschool to our transition program for up to 21-year-old students. I have approximately 1400 students and 2 buildings.

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