The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) recognizes the importance of school nurses, and is fortunate to have four full-time registered nurses serving students and districts.
While their day-to-day roles are vastly different — leading at a county level, working closely with at-risk students, serving 400 kids weekly in a state park, conducting in-home assessments for infants and toddlers — they all have the same goal: to ensure wellness so students can learn.
As SDCOE's school nursing coordinator, Jeanne Salvadori is a leader and mentor, dispensing advice and guidance to school nurses and health technicians all over the county. Salvadori said one of her favorite parts of the job is answering questions. She does that with hundreds of contacts via the countywide school nurse LISTSERV®. With encyclopedic knowledge of health issues, she answers queries citing Education Code, legal rulings, or the latest research.
"I love my job, and I have very mixed feelings about leaving," said Salvadori, a credentialed school nurse who's retiring in June after 12 years at SDCOE. "I like to feel that I've made a difference."
Salvadori was honored on Wednesday during a county School Nurses Day celebration with the Above and Beyond Award from the San Diego-Imperial Counties chapter of the California School Nurses Organization.
Elly Slater-Kobetsky is in her third year as the credentialed school nurse for SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools. Slater-Kobetsky said her work is rewarding, and students are happy to see her.
"I want parents and students to ask questions, to know that as a school nurse I might have a resource or a connection to a resource that a teacher, counselor, or other nurse might not have," she said.
Just one example of that was when Slater-Kobetsky helped the parent of an East County student find help for her toddler grandson, who was in her care. The mom was at her wit's end, struggling to pay for rent and food and feeling lost in the system as she tried to get help for her grandson, who was exhibiting autism spectrum behaviors. Slater-Kobetsky paid a home visit, made follow-up calls, and within a couple of weeks, the toddler was evaluated and enrolled in a developmental program. Slater-Kobetsky said it was heartwarming to know the help was life-changing for the family.
Registered nurse Sue Whitaker is finishing up her fourth year leading the Health Center at Cuyamaca Outdoor School. Whitaker has worked as a research scientist and a hospital nurse, but she finds the non-traditional setting — in a state park with hundreds of different students — a perfect fit.
"I get a new batch of kids every week, with a new batch of issues and medical conditions, from asthma to cystic fibrosis, food allergies to diabetes," she said. "One of my favorite parts of the job is just knowing that I am facilitating the experience of these students getting outside in nature."
Whitaker said she gets a lot of requests from students — Band-Aids, ice packs, splinter removal. Her favorite request is the easiest: a hug.
Rachael Butt is a registered nurse for the HOPE Infant Family Support program. She is retiring in June after 24 years at SDCOE, and just began training her replacement, Jennifer Fulston. Butt visits children ages newborn to 3 and their parents in their homes, performing assessments to determine whether a child qualifies for the HOPE program, and visiting at other times when a HOPE teacher needs a medical consultation for their young student.
National School Nurse Day recognizes the education, qualifications, and experience of the health professionals working in school districts.
The San Diego County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution at its April 2018 meeting declaring May 9 as School Nurse Day in San Diego.