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Taking care of the students

Job can be hectic, but tender loving care still involved

Job can be hectic, but tender loving care still involved

October 05, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - In days gone by, school nurses wore white uniforms and hats, dealt with an occasional bump or scrape, provided a cot for a child with a tummy ache and were available to dry tears and give comfort.

Nowadays, the school nursing profession has become much more complicated but as Angie Felton pointed out, there is still a lot of tender loving care needed and provided.

"It was the perfect 'mom' job for me when I had three little kids," said Felton.

A registered nurse, Felton serves Smithsburg Middle and Smithsburg High schools as well as Cascade Elementary School.

"I thought it would be boring but it's not," she said.

Back in the 1995-96 school year when the school nursing program was returned to public schools by the Washington County Health Department, Felton had just one school - Smithsburg Middle. The next year that went to two schools.

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"Once I had four schools but now it is three," Felton said. "I try to keep a schedule but often that doesn't work. I go where it's the busiest."

Assisting Felton at Smithsburg Middle is Joyce Wade, who also is in her 11th year. Wade is a certified nursing assistant and doesn't travel like Felton does.

Felton said the busiest time is when a new school year starts.

"All the medication comes in along with the paperwork and I have to approve all that," she said. "A medical log is kept for any student who takes medication."

That could be by pill, by spoon or inhaler and can include injections given to students with diabetes.

"It weighs on you, the load you carry," Felton said. There are 689 students just at Smithsburg Middle School.

Also at the beginning of the school year, Felton and Wade are establishing plans for special-needs students. They also make sure teachers and bus drivers are prepared if a student with an allergy gets stung, for example.

"And then there are students with food allergies, so the cafeteria people must be notified," Felton said.

A typical day at a school will begin with the dispensing of medications. There are also complaints that arrive when the students arrive on their buses - illness, injuries, etc.

"We set up screenings, deal with letters to parents and check immunizations," Felton said.

Wade said all the immunization and medication records must be kept up to date and that is quite a job.

All the needed supplies are kept in each school so Felton doesn't have to carry much with her when she travels between schools. Medications are kept under lock and key.

Each school also has a student support team to assist in dealing with the needs of the children.

A native of the Baltimore area, Felton and her family came to Washington County and liked it. She got her nursing training at Hagerstown Junior College (now Hagerstown Community College).

Her children are now older and only one is still at Smithsburg Middle School. The other two include a senior at Smithsburg High and a graduate.

Wade, formerly a medical technician, went for expanded training to get the job she holds now. "I like this a lot better," she said.

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