- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

PEKIN, Ill. (AP) - The lady with the stiff nurse hat and the ruby red lipstick of years past has faded to memory. In her place, a new breed of school nurse has emerged.

The licorice-flavored throat lozenge and bandages for playground boo-boos filled the days of many school nurses over the years. Back then, children who didn’t feel well more often than not were sent home to mom. But in 2015, when the workforce is filled with both mothers and fathers, students are kept at school as much as possible. Students with disabilities with extensive medical needs typically were not in the classroom as they are today.

Morton District 709 Nurse Maria Meschewski, known to the kids she cares for as “Nurse Maria,” understands the business well. By 10 a.m. last Thursday, she had already treated two students for an upset stomach and apparent anxiety, ran to the aid of a student having a seizure, helped two students check their blood sugar and did a tube feeding for a student. She calls Lincoln Elementary School home because that’s where most of the district’s students with special health needs attend.

She catheterizes one student, does breathing treatments every four hours for another and has several students prone to seizures that she medicates throughout the day.

The care doesn’t end with the students. Meschewski cares for the teachers as well. One had a heart attack at her desk.

“It’s pretty much like a mini-clinic,” she said. “Morton has handled this so well. We try to accommodate every child and their needs. With the school district I ask and I receive (if a child has a special need).” In the old days students would be sent home if they had an upset stomach. “Maybe a little bit of rest and a little bit of TLC and (the student) will be good to go for the rest of the day.”

For 33 years, Meschewski has worked in various fields of nursing - cardiac care, telephone triage, some geriatric nursing and, for the last 12, school nursing at Lincoln. She’s heard of cases in the old days when parents would wait in the parking lot of the school to check their child’s blood and give them their shot because there wasn’t a health care professional to care for more serious health issues.

“Besides being a mother I had never taken care of children, but I love the kids because they keep me young,” she said. “I know all of the new toys and clothes and music, TV shows, the Disney shows and all of that stuff. So they keep me in the loop of all that kind of stuff.” Knowing those little tidbits of information helps the children get to know her and trust her, she said.

“You know, ‘did you watch Frozen,’ and knowing all of the princesses and all of that stuff helps because a lot of kids are really scared - especially kids that don’t have the medical problems. They look at me and think I’m going to give them a shot,” she said. “So you try to warm up to them by asking them how the basketball game was last night, or did they go to the Morton football game. I have to keep in the loop of all of that stuff.”

Meschewski’s husband died 16 years ago and left her with four children, including a 7-day-old baby. She was working telephone triage at the time and the department was closing, so UnityPoint Health Methodist offered her a part-time position with District 709 as a school nurse. The next year it turned into a full-time position. The district contracts with UnityPoint for school nursing care.

Meschewski said UnityPoint tries to keep nurses in the same districts for long periods of time, so students and teachers have continuity. She rarely leaves Lincoln School because it’s where most of the younger children with special health care needs are located. She confers with teachers of upper-level students with special needs and does training with them and bus drivers.

“I might go once and a while to other schools (in the district) for, say, a broken bone, and they say, ‘can you come look at this,’ said Meschewski.

Nursing at the school is often non-stop.

“Sometimes my typical days starts off in the parking lot,” she said. “Parents will nab me and say, ‘so and so hasn’t felt good or had an asthma attack last night or had two seizures during the night,’ and so it takes me a little time to get to the office.”

“Other times my first half-hour might just be checking emails and cleaning up from the day before. I see approximately 40 students a day. I try to keep track of them by doing a statistics list and then at the end of the day I chart because it is just too hectic during the day. I have regular children I see- diabetics who come in several times a day to have their sugar checks. They have to do that here because it involves needles and blood. I start out very, very young with the children. In the first couple of years they warm up to me and they learn how to test their own sugars. By first or second grade we start memorizing the carbohydrates because now we count carbs instead of the calories … By sixth grade they’re pretty much independent.”

Lincoln School Sixth Grader Aubrey Mattson, 11, is a diabetic and relies on Meschewski’s help while at school.

“I’m just really blessed that I have a nurse,” said Mattson. “She’s probably the best nurse I know, so I’m glad I get her to help me.”

“We talk about school, life, anything, I guess.”

___

Source: Pekin Daily Times, http://bit.ly/1Usjax2

___

Information from: Pekin Daily Times, http://www.pekintimes.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide