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Omaha Magazine

Portrait of a School Nurse

Nov 22, 2017 01:30PM ● By Jeff Lacey
Sharon Wade can tell people many reasons why she became a school nurse, but sooner or later she comes around to this story, one of her favorites:

“At one point there was a boy with diabetes who came to the office all the time to check his sugars. He was in the nurses’ station a lot. A frequent flyer, we sometimes call them. Great personality. I remember a situation in which another student, a student with asthma, came in to use his inhaler. I gave it to him, of course.”

“When he was finished using it, the frequent flyer kind of gave him a critique. ‘You didn’t do it right. You need to cough before, and breathe in and out first before you use it.’” Wade recalls. “That’s how much time he spent with me.”

“And he was right about the use of the inhaler,” she adds with a chuckle.

This moment is one of the countless that Wade treasures from her 42-year career as a nurse, and, while Wade hasn’t been a school nurse that entire time, her entire career has been dedicated to the art of nursing. As a high school junior, Wade volunteered as a nurse’s assistant. She then went to Creighton to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Upon graduation in 1975, she took a position with the Visiting Nurses Association.

During the next decade and a half, she visited those in need of medical care throughout Douglas County, making home visits to the young and the old; the homeless and the homebound.

Then, in 1989, another leg of her journey began when Wade became a school nurse for OPS, serving four schools. She would spend one day at each school, then visit two schools on Friday. During that time, Wade mastered everything the job required: managing health screenings, dealing with medications, plotting growth and development, adapting to the demands of changing medical technology, and taking care of sick students. In 1998, she settled at Beveridge Middle School, where she learned the art of ‘disarming’ middle-school pupils.

“I am good with names, so they kind of warm up when they come in and you say, ‘what are we here for today, _____.’ It surprises them when you don’t see them often, but you still know their name. It helps to make a connection.”

This wealth of experience and attention to detail prepared Wade to become a nursing supervisor for health services at OPS in 2004.

In this capacity, Wade supervises 71 school nurses throughout the district. Her duties include running monthly nurse meetings, organizing teacher trainings, and the all-important assignment of supervising the medical staffing at all OPS schools. Wade likes that the district has entrusted a nurse with the responsibility, rather than choosing a non- nurse as a supervisor. “I like that OPS has put a nurse in charge of other nurses. We know how important emergency plans are, and we understand what’s required on a day to day basis,” says Wade.

And what does Wade believe is required of a school nurse besides medical expertise? Wade cites experience, patience, and the confidence to make important decisions quickly as ideals. “I think if I were a new nurse starting out, I would have been taken off guard by the amount of decision making required,” she explains.

Studs Terkel, that grand philosopher of work, commented that there are a happy few who find a savor in their daily jobs. Wade makes this idea manifest: a nurse not only by profession, but in spirit as well.

“I should tell you the story about the fire drill,” she offers with a smile.

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This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of FamilyGuide.

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