School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: What Do You Know? You’re Just The Nurse: A School Nurse Story

Do you know Brandy Bowlen, the school nurse leader from the great State of Texas?  She was one of my first Twitter friends, and I am so grateful to have met Brandy many years ago. She is passionate about Action Based Learning. You can read about her innovative work in this 2019 guest blog post: You Will Never Forget Brandy Bowlen’s Initiative “From Seat to Feet.”

Brandy is back with another inspirational guest blog, the perfect message to kick off a new school year! Happy 2023-2024 friends, May we all have a tremendous, healthy, and safe school year. Remember your “why,” and “what you know.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Communication plays such an unbelievably important role in the relationship between a school nurse and other school staff. How incredibly difficult is it to showcase your unique skill set and abilities when the stigma of “what a school nurse does” is so strong? One morning I was preparing a presentation for a large school district and I started thinking about a tough time in my school nurse life. It was 3 short years after I started. I had been with a principal who raised this baby school nurse to understand that it was her responsibility to “be the center of the community and there for parents, students, and staff alike”.  Years later that school would fall on very hard times, and the principal would be replaced. What happened next was one of the most difficult, but also most valuable changes that would transpire during my time at that school. The new principal came into such a challenging situation. Brand new. Mid-year. Pure chaos. Although our mission was the same, our worldview couldn’t be more different. She had only known school nurses who “stayed in the clinic, kept quiet, provided medical care, and went home every day”. I, on the other hand, was a little more active and a LOT more impatient. There’s so much more to the story, but we will summarize it this way. We had a blowup one day where she yelled “What do you know? You’re just the nurse.” I was crushed and, later, ended up confessing the way that she made me feel. After discussing, crying, and reframing our worldviews, we started fresh and made an unbelievable team for our kids. Before she left our school, she pulled me aside and asked me to schedule time quickly with the incoming principal and explain what a school nurse does, what you’ll need from her, what you bring to the table, etc. I did just that.

Reflecting on those days, I considered what the school nurse knows. I allowed myself to sit with the way I felt that day, and the feelings that were evoked by the word “just”. There are so many things we could add, but then a poem becomes a novel. For today, we will keep it short. I wonder what you would add to the list. What do you know, and how can you share what you know with those in your school community?

What Do You Know? You’re Just The Nurse: A School Nurse Story

By Brandy Bowlen

What do you know? You’re just the nurse.

I know every student by name.

Does he wear glasses?

Does she have a hard time hearing?

What are the family dynamics?

Who are his siblings?

What do you know? You’re just the nurse.

I know the staff. All of them.

Who has anxiety?

Who is a new teacher?

Who has superb classroom management?

Who has none?

Who feels alone?

Who is planning to leave this year?

What do you know? You’re just the nurse.

I know who has food allergies, asthma, and diabetes.

Who takes what medication and when?

Who has significant medical diagnoses and no medications or interventions at school?

Who is at risk for dangerous health conditions?

I know state Board of Nursing rules, TAC Codes, district policies and procedures, and state health services requirements.

What do you know? You’re just the nurse.

I know who has a 504 and who will have an ARD.

I know IHP’s and care plans for every student under my charge.

I know medically fragile. I know all special needs.

I know treatments, and procedures that make school possible!

I know trends in illness and absences before anyone else.

I know which students have test anxiety or avoid certain classes.

I recognize changes as year after year I’m the one in the building that is consistent for students and staff.

I know who is pregnant or at risk of becoming pregnant.

I stay alert for clues on who is at risk of human trafficking, domestic dating violence, and addiction.

I guess the better question for you is:
Is there anything you don’t know? You’re not just the nurse!


Bio: Brandy Bowlen, BSN, RN, NCSN is the School Health Specialist for the Texas Region 4 Education Service Center.  She is the former school nurse at Epps Island Elementary in Klein ISD.  This is her 19th year as a Registered Nurse serving in roles including Pediatrics and Adult Acute Care as well as 12 years of experience in school nursing.  Brandy is a Nationally Certified School Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has received numerous awards as a school nurse, including the prestigious Houston Chronicle Salute to Nurses Top 10 Nurses, and is passionate about school and community health, and the link between healthy communities and the education of students. She serves as the Secretary for the Texas School Nurse Organization as well as serving on the Steering Committee for Texas Action for Healthy Kids. 


1 thought on “The Relentless School Nurse: What Do You Know? You’re Just The Nurse: A School Nurse Story”

Leave a Reply

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