2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Health Equity, School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Gloria E. Barrera, a Climate Nurse Champion & Nurse Leader You Should Know

One of the most rewarding aspects of writing The Relentless School Nurse blog is finding nurses across the country doing important work and inviting them to share their passion through a guest blog.  Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are my main modes of seeking out nurses who are sharing their stories. I am always delighted when a nurse says, “yes” when I ask them to contribute a guest post. This week’s guest blogger is Gloria E. Barrera, MSN, RN, PEL-CSN an Illinois school nurse who works outside of Chicago and has embraced leadership in multiple ways. 

I first came across Gloria on LinkedIn and was really interested in an informal coffee chat she was hosting called “Nurses Inspire Nurses.” Here is a Tweet about the event:

Gloria was also a guest on the Nurse Keith Show: School Nurses: The Hidden Healthcare System | The Nurse Keith Show, EPS 227 and shared what it is like to be a school nurse in the 21st Century.  Gloria shared compelling data about workload, office visits, and the complex needs of students she sees in her Illinois area high school.  

Gloria’s leadership roles include Treasurer of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses-Illinois Chapter. It’s one of the pillars of her nursing passion and a part of her personal mission. Read about Gloria’s vision for school nursing as she prepares to become the President of the Illinois Association of School Nurses (IASN) and champions climate justice.

I am committed to the vision that every child, no matter their zip code have access to a school nurse. – Gloria Barrera


              Gloria E. Barrera, MSN, RN, PEL-CSN

“I’ve made it a priority to advocate for healthy environments, and raise awareness on climate change as a school nurse and nursing professor. One of my professional goals for this year, as I take on a leadership role within IASN as President, is to facilitate NASN becoming a member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health.  I respectfully proposed such to the NASN Board this month.  Together, we must work collaboratively on real solutions to address climate change, and its impact on health disparities for our most vulnerable populations. I was excited to see NASN’s position brief, adopted this past September, on climate change being a serious threat and present danger to the health, safety, well-being, and future of our nation’s children. As school nurses around country, we already know and have witnessed that children are among the most vulnerable to climate change threats, especially those living in poverty, suffering from chronic diseases, and are otherwise disadvantaged.  I stress that a healthy environment is the key to a healthy life in my current practice, and teaching. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies asthma as a leading chronic illness and cause of absenteeism in school-aged children and adolescents.  I have noticed an increase in the amount of students with asthma year after year. On average, in a classroom of 30, about 3 students are likely to have a diagnosis of asthma. To address this concern, I have focused on ensuring better management of asthma in my school and on raising awareness and education about the impact of air quality on student health.  We know exposure to poor air quality impacts health by contributing to adverse outcomes such as premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular and respiratory harm. Action to decrease air pollution is a public health priority to create healthy environments for all.  

I’ve been an active member of ANHE since 2016, and serve on both the Global Climate Change and Policy Committees.  I had the amazing opportunity to go to DC in June 2016 through ANHE, and met with elected officials to advocate for methane emission regulation to reduce air pollution from oil and gas production and other policies that would improve air quality for communities, especially for children in the Hispanic community.  The political influence, that I didn’t quite know we had as nurses, to speak about the climate change making us sick was empowering and is something that still motivates me today.

Through my teaching, I make it a point to note the critical nature of our environment and how we, as nurses, must advocate for our patients and the populations we serve. As the most trusted profession in the U.S., and at the forefront of school health, we must be in a position to be knowledgeable and credible on environmental health issues.

It is my vision to see this through, and I offer my experience to help in any way to facilitate NASN becoming an active member of the Nursing Collaborative on Climate Change and Health.”

Bio: Gloria E. Barrera, MSN, RN, PEL-CSN is a public health nurse leader, specialized in school nursing. She currently works as a certified school nurse at a public high school outside of Chicago.  Gloria is an Adjunct Professor of Nursing at several universities, most notably DePaul University, and her alma mater Saint Xavier University. Her leadership, and service has been recognized by several organizations both locally and nationally.  She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses-Illinois Chapter, is President Elect of the Illinois Association of School Nurses, and a proud member of ANA-Illinois, and APHA.  She’s been an active member of ANHE since 2016.  Gloria’s passion is public health nursing, and she is committed to continuing her efforts to improve child health outcomes in our most vulnerable populations through her practice, teaching, and advocacy. 

You may connect with Gloria on LinkedIn @gloriaebarrera, and on Twitter @Barrera_Gloria.



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