Serving you: School nurse for MMS and MHS

Carol Thomson is the school nurse for both Marietta High and Middle School, responsible for monitoring health data and issues for all sixth- through 12th-graders in the Marietta City school district.

Thomson started with the district more than a decade ago as the nurse at the middle school. When the high school nurse retired, the position was not filled and she took on those duties as well. Meanwhile, Renea Ball handles nursing duties at the district’s four elementary schools.

“Renea and I see our jobs as making sure that kid is in school to receive his education,” Thomson said. “And we’ll do whatever it takes medically to try to keep that kid in school and make it so that child is going to be ready physically and health-wise to receive their education.”

Question: What are the responsibilities of a school nurse in 2013?

Answer: Immunization compliance is a big one. And screenings, there are screenings that are required by the state of Ohio that we have to complete. And all of that right there is just paperwork. And that takes up so much time as we all know.

And I have some chronically ill students like diabetics that I don’t see on a day-to-day basis because I’ve trained other staff members. Because we’re not in the buildings all the time. … They do a really good job. Because there’s only one of me. And there’s, like, 1,600 students between the two buildings or more.

Q: How have those duties changed over the years?

A: Back when I started we had three nurses in the school system, and I just did the middle school, and there was a nurse that was here at the high school. And then one at all four elementary schools.

Each age group has its own issues peculiar to that age group, specific to that age group. It’s nice for continuity instead of having to deal one day with a first-grader and the next day with an 11th-grader. That’s like whiplash.

Q: What are the issues common or unique to the age groups with which you work?

A: There’s just the general health issues. There’s drug and alcohol usage, dealing with that. There’s dealing with teen pregnancies.

Q: So are you talking to kids with those issues?

A: I’ll have kids that come into my office with these concerns, and I try to help them find the community resources. And there’s several staff members … that they’re also very good about working with these kids, because I’m only in each of those buildings two days a week. … We’re very fortunate we have … other support staff in the school buildings that are ready, willing, able and capable of assisting.

It would be nice for everyone if we had more nursing staff, but in this day and age economically, teaching staff’s kind of more important.

Q: How did you become a school nurse?

A: I worked in the emergency room at (Marietta) Memorial (Hospital) for several years until we started our family. And with my husband having his own business, it was very hard to remain working in hospital work because I had to work weekends, holidays, weird hours. And he has his own business, so talk about weird hours. And when the last kid went to school … this job opened up. And it was like, “Perfect, I’m on the same schedule as my kids.”

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: I enjoy it when you actually can help a child or a family solve a problem so that the child is able to go to school.

Evan Bevins conducted this interview.