School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Let’s Set Healthy Work Boundaries

My last blog post, has opened up interesting discussions about boundaries and setting them for the upcoming school year. One response was from Judy Doran, a school nurse who writes “Maine Points.” She shares her insightful reflections below:

Boundaries by Judy Doran

Things I already do……
NO work emails on personal phone.
Literally, shut off the computer at home so that you can’t just walk by and jiggle a mouse or trackpad to check in on things. You need to make a deliberate effort.
My friends know that I may let a text or phone message sit. If it’s urgent they will call back.
In the health office……I let frequent fliers know that they don’t have to be unwell to visit but also know that if it’s busy in there or they are overstaying their welcome/visiting too often, they will need to return to class. It establishes a good, safe space/respite with boundaries.
In the health office with staff……NO OTC meds. It’s a slippery slope and unless you have orders for them it is a very bad idea. Also broadly speaking it is not to be used as an emotional dumping ground (of course there are exceptions…..). It is also not a place to air perceived or real medical concerns ad nauseam.

Try to establish some flexibility in your schedule with admin. For instance, if the after-hours staff meeting is dedicated to all things non-nursing maybe you could a) skip it (because you have never had a duty-free lunch and don’t even know what a prep period is), or b) stay in your office and work. I had a previous superintendent literally gasp when I suggested that, asking me if a nurse would unilaterally make that decision. My answer was, “yup”.
NO DUTIES…….anything that you would need to be replaced for if you had to attend to a student is off limits. (Bus, lunch, recess, whatever…..)

Make a plan now about potential (likely) extra hours next year. How have you handled them? How do you want to handle them? Figure out how to document them and what your pay rate should be. It should be at least your per diem rate. Or you can just say NO, cannot do it.

I just read an interview with Dr. Peter Hotez. He said he’d been working “really hard” but that he didn’t mind it because he found it meaningful. This is the part that started to get particularly sticky for me………..I couldn’t not do it, it was meaningful and interesting and the right thing to do. Then the edges started to fray, disinformation, pushback, and incivility came. It was still the right thing to do but the cost was increasing. What few boundaries I had were wobbling. I became exhausted, felt burnt out, unheard, underappreciated, doubtful, and pissed honestly. I get a lousy physical sensation when I think of next year. I unexpectedly resigned during an unrelated conversation with my superintendent who I will say has been enormously supportive of the nursing team. I’d been thinking of it but it was not on the agenda for this meeting. Anyhow, we compromised and I now have a part-time position and I’m 100% confident that I made the best decision. (I should note that the resignation declaration came at a point when he was being particularly thoughtful and supportive of our efforts and I just blurted out I CANNOT EVER DO THIS AGAIN. NEVER.

Can we do this again? My answer is no, not like we have done it. I can’t anyhow (even part-time), so I’m really looking forward to filling in some pointers under the heading of Things I Will Do.


2 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: Let’s Set Healthy Work Boundaries”

Leave a Reply to Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN, FNASN, FAANCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.