Scraped knees and runny noses and band aids and ice packs. These are the things often associated with school nurses. It is not an inaccurate list. But it is far from complete.
School nurses also coordinate health screenings and medications and reports. They educate students on healthy habits, work with families to find care, support teachers and staff, and respond to a variety of illnesses and diseases that find their way into a school.
And, for the past two years, they have been on the front lines of a global pandemic as much as any essential workers, supporting countless public health efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This week is National Nurses Week and Wednesday, May 11 is School Nurse Day. To mark the occasion, we share photographs of 66 of the nurses serving Des Moines Public Schools. Each portrait was taken in their space at their schools, capturing them as well as a little bit of the environment where they assist students and staff.
We also share some words from each nurse about their work in support of our students and families, why their work makes a difference in their health and well-being, and some favorite memories of their experiences.
These photographs and words of the nurses of Des Moines Public Schools were gathered in the spring of 2022 as the end of the pandemic came into view. As we returned to “normal.” And as their work continued.
(This project was done by our communications director, Phil Roeder, for a class on medicine and photography he recently took as part of his work to complete a BFA in photography.)
Some of the nurses’ stories are very personal. Lori Seitzer of Hoyt Middle School, for example, shares an encounter she had with a former student several years later:
“I will never forget the night I had one of my previous students recognize me at a restaurant. She was our waitress. She said, ‘You were my school nurse’ and I told her ‘yes, I was.’ She said, ‘You were always so nice to me, I got a lot of headaches, and you would always let me lay down.’ I remembered this student, but we were not close, we did not have any kind of a relationship, I didn’t do anything special for her. I asked her what she was up to, and she replied, ‘I just transferred from Iowa State to Grandview and I’m studying to be a nurse.’ I cried. That interaction helped remind me that our actions, our smiles, our kindness does have a positive impact on students every day and you just never know how much you may have meant to someone.”
Others noted the difference their work makes to the health of the community at large. Terri Kruse of North High School pointed out:
“School Nurses are classified as Public Health Nurses. Although we serve those under 19 years old, our initiatives help support the wider population also. We put into motion measures that will help support young people throughout their lives. It’s a privilege and a joy to be able to help others, especially during the last two difficult pandemic years.”
The work of school nurses extends beyond the walls of the school building. Dozens of nurses mentioned families in their comments, and the importance of building relationships and trust to not only care for students but help families find ways to meet their own health care needs.
Most of all, nurses are part of the team at any school that works to support the needs of students. On that note, perhaps Amanda Jordan of Jefferson Elementary School put it best:
“Healthy students learn better and school nurses are here to make it happen!”
To see the nurses serving Des Moines Public Schools – and read their thoughts on supporting the health needs of students, staff and families – be sure to visit this album on the DMPS Flickr page or view the slide show below.