More wonderful stories from the field are filling my mailbox! Remember if you want to share your school nursing story, please email me at email@example.com. I have a new one to share, this one is from Wendy Lamparelli, the lead nurse in her New Jersey school district. She has a unique signature line that includes the message pictured below: Don’t Be Silent About Things That Matter.
I think that sums up Wendy’s school nursing philosophy. She is a dedicated colleague with decades of experience that she continues to share with her students, staff and families. Here is Wendy’s story, how she knew at the young age of seven, that she was destined to become a nurse.
When I was 7 years old, I put on a Nurse’s Halloween costume and made my lifelong career decision. I am sure I tried to think of something else to be when I grew up, but it seemed like the nurse idea was the one for me. Maybe I sensed everyone in my family was broken or needed help and wanted to fix it, or maybe because my mother told me I was too short to be a ballerina. Because my childhood was full of challenges, it was a primer for my career. As a diploma school graduate I had to go to school at night to get my BSN but looking back I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
In the beginning, my passion in nursing was the care of mother’s babies and children but at that time; I could not have known what a perfect fit the profession of School Nursing would be. Midwifery was my original goal but an encounter with a colleague who had recently gotten a school nurse certificate peaked my interest.
In 2003, I began my career at Hackensack High School. I took a huge pay cut but really wanted the job. The hours were perfect to raise my little ones. I kept a second job for 6 years to make up the difference all the while thinking I would change paths again when the time was right.
Soon into the challenge of being a High School nurse, I immediately fell in love with the practice of school nursing. There had never been a perfect role for my skill set. I was able to be a leader without being a manager. I was able to use my people skills to relate to high school students who were going through rough times. I was able to use my family experiences and family dynamic to connect with students who had similar stories. My energy level was perfect for running around a campus of nearly 2000 students. My creativity and innovation went to good use when developing a plan for cardiac arrest and the reentry of students from psychiatric facilities. My natural tendency to coach people, (really to boss them around) allowed me to influence them to make better health choices. Because I loved the soapbox, I was able to lead mentoring groups. The needs of our students, families and our school staff for that matter, gave me us endless opportunity for broad reach and influence.
After 8 years as a high school nurse, I pulled many kids out of the proverbial river and thought it would be a novel idea to transfer to an elementary school in the hopes of keeping them from jumping in, in the first place. In some ways, it has been harder from this view. I can see now the way their foundation and life experience in early years lays the groundwork for a series of negative effects they face later in life. In a sad way, I have a sense about the ones we may lose to a broken educational system. Occasionally I feel helpless to change the trajectory of their lives. My only hope is the love, care, hugs and pep talks in micro and macro doses given on a daily basis, may someday affect their future lives for the better. Turns out that family dynamics, economic challenges, trauma and the lack of consistent nurturing and structure are an uphill battle for these children. It is why I love the word “ RELENTLESS”. As school nurses, we can never give up and must remain relentless filling the emotional tanks of others. It is also why filling our own is essential. 20 years and counting in to this ride as a school nurse I can say without question it is not a job or even a career but rather a calling of higher service. I pray we all have what we need to stay RELENTLESS for this cause every day.
Wendy Lamparelli, RN MEd. CSN-NJ Lead Nurse