By Curt Yeomans
Lee Street Elementary School Nurse Robin Nelson said she still remembers a little girl at the school, who "complained about having a stomach ache every day" about four years ago.
She said she noticed something was wrong with the youth's skin color, and called the girl's mother to recommend that she be taken to an emergency room to be checked out. The little girl's skin was as white as a piece of paper, said Nelson, who has been the nurse at Lee Street for nine years, and previously served for 23 years as a nurse at Piedmont Hospital.
Within two hours of that phone call, the girl had been diagnosed with a condition that causes intestinal bleeding, and was receiving a blood transfusion at an Atlanta-area children's hospital, Nelson said.
"I think we [school nurses] are very necessary," Nelson said. "Our presence keeps your children in the classroom, because we can evaluate your child's symptoms for you. Parents feel comfortable that, even if they're not here, there is someone who can take care of the student."
Wednesday was National School Nurses Day, National Nurses Day, and the first day of the American Nurses Association's National Nurses Week, which takes place annually from May 6 through May 12. According to the ANA's web site, the final day of National Nurses Week is always May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who the association calls "the founder of modern nursing."
Several officials at Lee Street said school nurses, like Nelson, are important because they help keep students in the classroom. Nelson said she teaches educators at the school how to tell if a symptom is serious enough to warrant the pupil being sent to her office. She also said she recommends that teachers keep a box of bandages in their classrooms to treat minor injuries.
"If it's a paper cut, put a Band-Aid on it," Nelson said. "You don't need to miss 10 to 15 minutes of class for a paper cut."
Lee Street Principal Marcy Perry said nurses like Nelson are essential to school operations, because they have medical expertise that other school employees do not possess. "We could not operate without school nurses," Perry said. "We're so used to asking her [Nelson] for advice on medical issues. She just takes care of this school."
Southern Regional honors nurses
Southern Regional Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Cathy Kenney said the hospital's officials have been honoring their nearly 700 nurses since Monday with different activities each day.
On Monday, nurses were treated to a presentation on nursing theory, Kenney said. They got to wear old-style, all-white nursing uniforms, including a nursing cap. On Wednesday, there was a lunch for them.
Today, the hospital will honor nurses again with a breakfast, lunch and dinner for each nursing shift, Kenney said. During the breakfast, the hospital's nurses of the year, in several areas, including patient care, helping other nurses, and customer service, will be named. On Friday, the nurses are encouraged to wear special Nurses Week T-shirts with their uniforms.
"You don't have patient care without a nurse," Kenney said. "You don't have a hospital without nurses. Nurses are the heartbeat of health care."