Students remain unaware of nurse alternatives


Meghan Joyce

Students are not aware of alternatives to going to see the school nurse: “If there’s a real health crisis, there are lots of people around who are able to step in,” Upper School Principal Chris Hughes said.

Face-plant in Fitness for Life? Get sick in science class? Trip and twist an ankle? Ordinarily these problems would be fixed with a quick visit to the school nurse. However, without one working full-time, students believe that they are simply out of luck if it’s not the right time on the right day.

The point of having a school nurse is to have someone that students can always rely on, a safety net to save the day with Tylenol or an ice pack. St. Paul Academy and Summit School doesn’t have that, but the backup options remain widely unknown. A safety net is crucial, but it can’t work if students don’t know it’s there.

The SPA nurse, Kelly Nelson, works at the Upper School on Tuesday, Thursday afternoons, and three times per month on Fridays. “…she’s actually doing more of the clerical work rather than the one-on-one, face-to-face…kind of work,’” Upper School Principal Chris Hughes said. This is because her primary job concerns filling out paperwork which only licensed nurses are allowed to do.

Whether it’s because Nelson’s focus is clerical work or that sightings of her are rare, many aren’t aware that she even exists. “I’ve never seen her,” junior Maya Smith said. “I’ve tried to go [to her office] several times and she was never there.”

Students have been wondering what they should do if they’re caught feeling unwell during one of Nelson’s off days; “…people get sick on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays…and when there’s not a nurse, what do they do?” sophomore Neeti Kulkarni said.

That’s the telling question. The problem is that students don’t know their other options.

“If there’s a real health crisis, there are lots of people around who are able to step in, including SPA Security officers and faculty members who have a range of training backgrounds,” Hughes said. According to Hughes, all security officers have some emergency medical training, along with the athletic trainer. In addition, the faculty is trained annually in procedures including CPR, using an automated external defibrillator, using an EpiPen, and responding to a seizure.

Since students may feel that they have no one at school to turn to for medical advice, going home is often the default choice when they feel sick. However Hughes stated that, “Most students are able to take care of themselves…as long as somebody is there as a backup who knows what to do if there is a problem,” Hughes said.

Students are able to go to go into the infirmary whenever they need to lay down, get a bandage, or almost anything else they need.

SPA doesn’t have a school nurse every day. But, instead of worrying about whether the school nurse will be available, students should take responsibility and either help themselves or find other people in the community who can help them, because they are there.

NOTE:  This story has been edited to specify that the faculty is trained in using AEDs.

This article was originally published in the October 2014 Print issue of The Rubicon.  The story can be seen in its original form by clicking on the “In Print” tab or at