What I do

What I do: Dorothy McMorrow, school nurse

Dorothy McMorrow Working with just one public health aide, McMorrow provides nursing services to nearly 1,900 students at IS 234 in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Say “school nurse” and people think of tummy aches and boo-boos. What’s the job really like?

With a student body this large, we run the gamut of injuries and illnesses. I have more than 200 children suffering from asthma, so the job is certainly more than ice packs and Band-Aids. With proper assessment, we have uncovered many serious health issues, which for the most part would’ve gone unnoticed. Generally the goal is to keep students healthy so they can learn.

Is advocating good health habits part of reaching that goal?

It is. And now the Office of School Health has a program providing ways for nurses to help children lose weight through exercise and diet. A large portion of our schoolchildren are overweight and tend to have health problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Are there any serious health issues that you deal with regularly?

I treat many diabetics each day. One of my goals is to help them become self-sufficient and make better food choices. I’ve also worked with insulin pump manufacturers on getting kids new pumps. Because English is not the first language of the parents they were having a hard time getting their point across to the reps.

It sounds like students’ families are in the picture, too.

Absolutely. Also, our students are very culturally diverse. Nurses must be sensitive to the beliefs that people of different nationalities have around health care, always respecting their ways while making sure they get the most effective treatment.

Do families wind up relying too much on the nurse at school rather than going to a clinic, especially if they don’t have medical coverage?

I kind of discourage that from the beginning. For one thing, we can’t give out medication unless it’s with a DOE Medication Administration Form. Additionally, I give out a referral to see a doctor and tell people that the MD has to fill it out. The working poor are hardest hit, with the high co-pay and another one for the medication. Luckily we have a Department of Health facility around the corner, where people can inquire about health coverage and use the nearby Coney Island Hospital, which has children’s health services.

What other services would you like to see for students?

More mental health programs. Middle-school students these days are dealing with much more than we ever did at that age. They need sex education, one-on-one counseling, suicide prevention, support groups with their peers led by licensed professionals and possibly workshops for the parents.

What was a great moment for you?

When a diabetic student’s mother told me that I gave her her life back, that she could actually go somewhere now during school hours and feel confident her child was cared for and safe. She said she was forever grateful and was even talking about getting a part-time job. That sticks with you. I don’t think some school nurses realize how they can relieve entire families!

Worst moment?

I can honestly say there hasn’t been one. It’s alway a positive outcome, working with children and their families. I love going to work every day. I make a difference, and the children have taught me so much.

What have they taught you?

To take more time with them; that in dialogue I find out way more than what meets the eye. The tendency is to want to just fix them and send them back to class. But I learned you can find out about the little brother’s health issue or what’s going on at home when you take the time to dig a little.

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