Laura Wheeler

Hello, my name is Laura Wheeler and I am proud to be a school nurse with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. I have been a nurse since 1982 when I graduated from the University of Iowa School of Nursing with a BSN degree. I have had the opportunity to experience many different aspects of nursing in my 24 years but feel school nursing is a culmination of all my learning and professional experiences.

Few people understand the evolution of the job of a school nurse. We are known, of course, for being the person students go to for making "boo boos", "ouchies" and similar injuries better in a kind, caring, empathetic manner. I take care of minor injuries everyday but my job is so much more. I love my job because each and every day is different. There are days when anything planned will change because something important and unexpected moves to the top of my priority list. I am responsible for coordinating the health services at three elementary schools with approximately 1100 students. I train and delegate medical tasks to non-licensed personnel in each school building to be prepared for the day-to-day operation of the health office and for emergencies that may occur. I teach first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), medication administration and how to carry out emergency protocols and individualized health plans for students with known health concerns. In addition to the students I serve, I also assist staff, parents, families and visitors.

It is a continual challenge for schools to adequately accommodate students with acute and chronic health conditions. The acuity of our students increases every year. One of the schools I work in has 86% of families just at or below the national poverty level. These students and families are struggling to meet their basic needs. School is often times a safe haven for some of these students. I work with these students and families to access health care, apply and complete health insurance forms and provide transportation to medical, dental, and eye appointments. I help them interpret health care information and provide health education as needed. Many parents have "school phobia" because their own experience with school was not positive. Many of them trust me to help navigate the system because I am a nurse.

As a school nurse I also have the opportunity to serve on several committees that impact students and health services in our district. I serve on a health education committee, emergency care committee and on a community based task force on obesity prevention. I am part of an action research deployment team to provide continuous improvement in how we deliver services. This consists of data-driven interventions and assists us to use evidenced-based practices for school nurses. I love to go into the classrooms of all of my buildings to teach family life puberty education, nutrition, proper hand washing techniques and ways to keep the body healthy. I also am a preceptor for student nurses in their final semester of college who are interested in learning about the profession of school nursing. I became a National Certified School Nurse in February of 2005. I serve as the membership chair for the Iowa School Nurse Organization to help promote the profession of school nursing. I am a member of the National School Nurse Organization (NASN) and the educational sorority Delta Kappa Gamma. One of the things I am most proud of is having received the H.O. Maxey Humanitarian Award in May of 2005 from the Cedar Rapids Education Association. This was an award for my volunteer and professional service to the community. I believe in the importance of giving back to the community.

My primary goal is to continue being a school nurse and to continually improve on my practice. I want to complete my Masters Degree in Education with an emphasis in School Nurse Education because this degree will not only help me to improve it will also impact our health services team, community and the profession of school nursing as I give back. I also would like to be a good role model to my own children and I want to complete my degree before my oldest leaves for college in 18 months. My husband Steve and I have been married for 21 years and have two teenage children. Stuart is a senior in high school and Stephanie is a freshman this year. It is important to me for them to value education as a tool to be able to do what they would like to in life. I want them to enjoy their chosen career as much as I do my own. As a school nurse I have the opportunity to impact the lives of students, their families and staff. Our children are the most precious resource our country has. If I can assist students to be as healthy physically, socially, emotionally and behaviorally as they can be I will feel like I have accomplished my job. Thank you for the NEF Scholarship to help me reach my goals.