The New York State Association of School Nurses is pleased to recognize school nurses who go above and beyond their daily activities in making their schools a safe and welcoming environment. Taking the time to make a difference in someone’s life is why they are being recognized by NYSASN, the professional association that solely represents school nurses across New York State.
NYSASN is pleased to recognize Elizabeth Hart, RN, as an Everyday Hero! Elizabeth, or “Biz”, as she is known, is the School Nurse at Diven Elementary School in Elmira. It’s easy to see from her photo that Biz is fun to be around. Her colleague writes that in addition to being an invaluable resource to the staff on all things health-related, she is a caring and nurturing individual as well. Biz makes sure her supply of extra shoes, clothing and outdoor wear for her students is always well stocked to the point of making purchases from her own pocket when necessary. One example of her kindness and ingenuity was when she helped a young student who wore leg braces without shoes who was having difficulty with PT exercises during school. To help make PT easier, Biz found, bought and modified shoes that would fit the braces. Knowing this student also loved the cartoon “Ryan’s World,” she painted the shoes with characters from the show. This was just one example out of many where Biz has shown care and concern for her students. As her friend, Shelly, writes, “…there is not a day that goes by that she doesn’t make students and staff here at Diven feel welcomed, safe and loved.”
A Registered Nurse with 30 years total experience, Maria Migliorato is currently the school nurse at PS 159. Her co-worker, Cathy Jensen, describes Maria’s tireless efforts to ensure that children in her school are safe, have access to their medications and that their health needs are being met every day. She adds that Maria always goes above and beyond, helping young students transition back and forth between home and school during these unprecedented times. For Maria, the job doesn’t stop when the school day ends. When she learned that the basic needs of the children and their families were not being met following school closures in March, Maria was heartbroken and decided to take action. She started a food pantry where individuals wanting to contribute could drop off donated food weekly at her house. Initially, donations were left outside on her patio bench which officially became known as “The Bench.”This eventually evolved into a much larger program. Maria began partnering with the police officers in her local precinct, along with the Corona Community Ambulance Corps, to collect food for a Thanksgiving food drive and toys for the holidays. Her help to the local community continues with whatever she can do to assist those in need, always going above and beyond. As Cathy concludes, “She has a huge heart that never stops giving to others.”
Lisa Epstein MSN, RN, is the school nurse at Mildred E. Strang Middle School in Yorktown Heights. In addition to being a middle school nurse, Lisa’s other role is as Nursing Coordinator for the Yorktown Central School District. Her colleague, Cynthia Scinto, writes that Lisa took a leadership role early on in the pandemic. Last spring, she was instrumental in organizing a group of Zone 4 nurse coordinators from the area. Once in place, Lisa proceeded to schedule and facilitate online meetings where the nurse coordinators developed and shared documents which resulted in a joint plan for school reopening. Together they would link up with their common medical director for ongoing periodic updates, clarification of new state guidance and general “Q and A” when needed. As Cynthia concludes, “Lisa’s commitment to creating and spearheading this group has helped to build collegiality among a group of nurses who are grateful to have to forum to share common concerns and experiences as they take on the unique challenges of School Nursing under the cloud of COVID-19.”
Christine Civello RN, BSN, deserves her Everyday Hero Recognition for being an “invaluable” school nurse employed at Manlius Pebble Hill School in Syracuse. She is described by her school co-worker, Amy Critz, as having vast medical knowledge and expertise, along with always being available and kind to everyone she encounters. She also serves as a member of her school’s pandemic response team and as the Zone 10 president. In addition to her usual school nurse responsibilities, Christine regularly organizes a flu immunization clinic for staff and the school’s blood drive. In endorsing her contributions to the school, Christine is described as “a true, above and beyond employee.”
Holly Giovi, RN, a school nurse at May Moore Primary School in Deer Park has been singled out by fellow school nurse, Gerri Plechner as having embraced the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic head on. After only three days of school closure in March, “Holly became a front-line worker, performing COVID testing at Long Island’s state testing site at Jones Beach State Park. While she was working the frontline, she continued to connect with her staff through Zoom calls and created a virtual tour of the testing site to share with her staff and students.” Gerri continues that “Holly hit the ground running in March and once schools realized they needed to plan for the fall, Holly became part of her district’s COVID-19 Coordinator Team, sharing with her school administration nursing best practices and policies to provide a safe school reopening.”
In Holly’s own words, which were published in Johnson & Johnson’s article Unsung Heroes: School Nurses Adapting and Innovating in Response to COVID-19 “…The complexities of students’ lives today are ever-changing, and now with the added pressures of a pandemic, the school nurse’s role will broaden once again to include even more hats to wear. I would like society to know that school nurses take a completely holistic approach to everything we do concerning our students, their families and the staff. School nurses are so dynamic—we just figure it out, all with the focus of helping our students be well enough to be educated.”
School nurse Barbara Masser, RN, who works at Belle Sherman Elementary School in the Ithaca City School District, is reported by her nurse colleague, Caryl Silberman, to be a stellar leader. This quality has been apparent not only during the pandemic but in everyday practice as well. Barbara is described as showing strong leadership skills in her supervisory role while always maintaining a calm and professional presence to those around her. Her actions are a calming influence to staff, students and families as they try to navigate a new normal during these difficult times. In addition to her regular responsibilities, Barbara often fills in at other district schools experiencing understaffing due to the shortage of school nurses. She is responsible for contact tracing of staff and students testing positive for COVID. The health and safety of students is always her priority, which is why Barbara is a strong advocate for promoting the importance of a school nurse in every building.
NYSASN is pleased to announce that school nurse Colleen Cleary is deserving of Everyday Hero Recognition. Colleen, who works at Dawnwood Middle School in Centereach, is the past president of Suffolk County’s Zone 2. During this time, she has been instrumental in initiating virtual meetings within her Zone once the Covid pandemic began. She has also generously shared her expertise with NYSASN in creating membership polls for use during board meetings and upcoming membership voting. Jacki O’Donnell, who nominated Colleen, states, “In addition to being a great zone president, Colleen is generous in sharing her knowledge and experience with colleagues, even in other organizations.”
Congratulations to school nurse Kathy Darrow-Holla, who just started her 30th year at Wellsville Secondary School in Wellsville. (Now that name alone should promote good health!) Kathy enjoys telling former students, who are in their 30s and 40s and whose children she now cares for, that she never did get out of middle school! In one of the most crucial times of her nursing career, Kathy recognized a student suffering from cardiac arrest while in gym class. She immediately initiated CPR and saved the student’s life.
An additional responsibility for Kathy has been the orientation of all newly hired school nurses both within the district and beyond its borders within the county. She performs as an exceptional liaison between the local medical providers and the district health offices. With any issue brought to her attention, Kathy confronts it with 100 percent of her time and effort. Currently, even with the all the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Kathy has continued to stay right at the front of the storm, handling policies, paperwork, parents, and patients with her usual finesse and professionalism.
The application for her recognition adds, “She has been a leader within the school nurse community and has earned their utmost respect!” No wonder Kathy is recognized within her district as one of the best!
Let’s hear it for another school nurse who’s been brought to NYSASN’s attention, Elizabeth Giancaspro. Liz, as she is called, works as the school nurse at Spackenkill High School in Poughkeepsie. As her friend Stacey Sacco writes in nominating Liz for this recognition, “There is not one specific date but months of hard dedication to the Spackenkill School District that Liz should be recognized for. She pushed aside her summer break and family to make sure both students and district staff had a safe plan in place for return to school this September.” Even before the pandemic, her office was viewed as a safe haven for all students, whether for illness symptoms or those experiencing anxiety issues, this latter becoming of increasing concern for middle and high school students
Besides her role as school nurse, Liz is also the district nurse advisor for all four district schools. Always the professional, Liz exhibits the qualities envisioned when thinking about what a nurse should be. Besides having an “impeccable” work ethic, she shows compassion to all students, their families, and staff. Even when dealing with some of the “more challenging” students or their parents, Liz never allows her own emotions to deter her from the mission of providing care and support for all. “She genuinely loves what she does and it shows through her enthusiasm to educate others in a way that makes them feel accomplished.”
NYSASN would like to recognize school nurse Naomi Stevens RN from Woodstock, New York, as an Everyday Hero. Naomi, who works as a school nurse at Kingston High School, was appointed as the Kingston School District’s COVID Liaison. This position has placed her in charge and made her the “go to” person for everything COVID. Naomi puts in countless hours of the day/night answering phone calls and emails from throughout the district. According to her colleagues, “She works hard to ensure best practice and the staff’s safety during this pandemic.”
In addition to these responsibilities, Naomi also serves as a lead nurse for the secondary schools in the district, offering guidance to the nurses as needed and advocating for them in their school practice.
Lindsey Drozd is employed by the West Valley School District in West Valley, New York, and is being recognized for her months of hard work and dedication. We are told by her administration that she is always there for her co-workers, along with being truly knowledgeable about the current pandemic situation and how to best manage it in the school setting.