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.
Nominate an Everyday Hero in your community!
Zone 4 shares the quick action of a fellow school nurse who saved her student’s life.
Theresa V. Branciforti, MSN, RN, NCSN, described March 20th, 2023 as a “manic Monday,” when full of the usual mayhem Mondays often bring to the school health office. Ms. Branciforti, 15 years a School Nurse, District Nurse Coordinator for the Valhalla Union Free School District, as well as, MS/HS Nurse, showed the value of experience and preparation when a 10th grade student walked into her office 10 minutes after lunch complaining of tingling of her mouth and lips. This student who had no history of food allergy related that she had eaten a bag of mixed nuts and Caesar salad at lunch. With parent on the phone it was determined that these foods had never caused issue in the past, but within minutes the symptoms progressed to include severe abdominal pain and projectile vomiting. Ms. Branciforti immediately administered Epi-pen, activated EMS response and instructed the parent to meet the student at the ER. Within 10 minutes the student’s condition was already stabilizing as EMS arrived to transport the student. The staff member who accompanied the student to the ER later related to Ms. Branciforti that the MD told the parents “Your daughter is very fortunate to have a knowledgeable School Nurse, she saved her life. Valhalla is lucky to have this nurse, who did not wait for all of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis to present before giving the Epi-pen. She was quick to react and your daughter is OK because of it.” Follow up testing revealed that a cashew allergy was the culprit. The student returned to school with an Epi-pen and was deemed independent/self-carry, giving Ms. Branciforti a chance to seize a teachable moment, educating the student about Epi-pen, anaphylaxis and self-administration with return demonstration of injection technique. NYSASN Zone 4 recognized Ms. Branciforti at their recent Zone meeting, as an “Every Day Hero”. She was also congratulated by her school district and the story was picked up by the local cable news station. Ms. Branciforti stated that it was nice to receive acknowledgement for her job as a School Nurse outside of School Nurse Day and she states that all School Nurses are Everyday Heroes; We know it, and now, so does everyone else.
NYSASN is proud to highlight Deborah Bradley, BSN, RN, from Commack School District, as an Everyday Hero. Deborah recognized the signs and symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes mellitus in one of her students. She swiftly alerted the parent to her concerns. The student was evaluated by the family’s PCP where the diagnosis was made and treatment initiated.
As one of her colleagues commented on the nomination form, “Deb is the most compassionate and thorough nurse I’ve ever worked with. She takes the time to work out every issue presented to her on a daily basis. We are lucky to have her as an RN working for our school.”
Way to go Deborah!
In late March, during the early morning arrival of students and staff, Vestal Middle School nurse Michelle Hroncich, RN, and several staff members worked together to save an eighth-grade student’s life.
School aide, Shelly Wowk, had been greeting students outside the cafeteria when she noticed something alarming. After saying good morning to one student, but getting no response, she saw him suddenly go straight down; face first to the ground. There was still no response when she bent down to check on him. As she called for help, he began seizing, and several faculty members ran over to assist her.
Meantime, Nurse Hroncich had arrived to work early, as was her custom, in order to attend to various student needs prior to the start of school. When a student suddenly appeared at her door and calmly told her the principal needed her to assist another student who had fallen in the hall, she intuitively knew to expect the worst.
Nurse Hroncich rushed to the hallway outside the cafeteria where the student had fallen to the floor. She instantly put her hospital trauma nursing skills into action. Bending over the boy, she began CPR, breathing into him and compressing his chest again and again and again. She then used an AED to shock his heart.
Nurse Hroncich’s life-saving actions continued while the ambulance crew came into the school. The student was taken to a local hospital, then airlifted to Syracuse. Later, he was airlifted to New York City. Later reports were that he was in good condition and expected to recover.
“It was very, very traumatic and very graphic,” said teacher, Patrick Gray. The student was “gasping for air and his face was extremely, extremely blue. The nurse single-handedly saved his life.”
The life-saving actions of the school nurse are a stark and chilling example of why NYSUT continues to advocate with the state Legislature for a law requiring at least one registered nurse in every school building.
“In our district we are lucky to have a nurse in every building. I can’t help but think about the consequences if we did not,” said Joseph Herringshaw, president of the Vestal TA. As a result of collaboration with the district and the union, there are also two school district nurses to ensure every building has a nurse every day.
“The SRPs, teachers and administrator worked to literally save a life. Initially, when the outcome was uncertain, the EMT said that if he (the student) survives it’s because of the immediate action taken by the staff. How is a nurse in every building even a question?” Herringshaw said.
In a follow up between Michelle Hroncich and a NYSASN representative, she attributes her quick actions of that day to her past work experiences as a critical care nurse, CPR instructor and a Nurse Educator. She goes on to say that school districts need to provide funding for school nurses in order to have mandatory continuing professional education. There are many older school nurses who are now retiring. Often, the younger nurses replacing them are taking on these new positions without any formal training or evaluation.
NYSASN certainly agrees that Vestal Middle School is fortunate to have a qualified nurse such as Michelle Hroncich caring for their students and staff.
Taken from an interview with Nurse Hroncich and an excerpt from the May 2022 issue of NYSUT
School Nurses Save Lives!
A faculty member gratefully expresses appreciation for the care provided by his school nurse during a recent health crisis.
She Saved My Life
On September 15, while preparing for my 7th-grade music class, I suddenly knew I was having a stroke. My left arm and hand had become dissociated from my brain. I could no longer type and soon, could barely speak. Thankfully, I was able to walk and got down a flight of stairs to our school nurse, Margaret Keane, RN. I pulled up a chair next to Maggie and garbled “we’re having a problem.” She understood immediately what was happening and quickly turned her office, usually engaged in sports physicals and playground scrapes, into an ER.
A seasoned pro, Maggie took it from there. While checking my vital signs, she calmly accessed and proceeded to give instructions to her assistant and our central office. “Call 911” is what you really want to hear in this situation since “Time is Brain,” nurse lingo meaning the clock is ticking to save brain function, and receiving the tPA injection as soon as possible is vital. When administered quickly after stroke onset, a tPA shot helps restore blood flow to brain regions affected by a stroke, thereby limiting the risk of brain damage and functional impairment. Maggie prepared me for transport, and the EMTs were there pronto. The room was filled with a ballet of EMT, police, and administrative staff, all expertly choreographed by Nurse Keane. George Balanchine couldn’t have done it better. I was swiftly transported to the local ER and in fact, did receive the tPA injection.
Truthfully, we really don’t know the capabilities of others until we see them at their best. How many of us in our daily lives are prepared to spring into the appropriate action to address highly stressful situations? Do we acknowledge that the most highly trained personnel of our school staff is our nurse?
Yes, I caught some shrapnel this time, but it could have been so much worse. Thank you to my personal hero Margaret Keane for at the very least, helping to preserve my quality of life.
Let’s all celebrate Margaret Keane for her composure and grace during critical and life-threatening moments. She is by any definition, a true hero.
South Orangetown Central School District
Rockland County New York
Mr. Yassky, a musician, has been a public school music teacher since 1974.
Melissa DeFonce, RN, is another example of a school nurse who challenges herself by working above and beyond her responsibilities, yet never looks for any special attention. Early on, she took the lead by informing herself of all the latest COVID updates and sharing her knowledge with other school personnel at the Garrison School, creating a safe environment for her school’s reopening. Channeling her artistic side, Marissa designed bulletin boards and printed posters which she hung to remind her students of what they needed to do in order to remain safe. She continues to conduct all student contact tracing as this gives her the chance to offer reassurance and offer education to her parents. She has been known to deliver food to families unable to leave home due to illness and enjoys treating the school staff to her own home baked goods. Even after feeling some side effects following her recent vaccination, Melissa came to work wearing the same smile that she brings each day to her job. Her colleague adds that if you ask anyone in the building, “Who is the “glue” responsible for keeping the school together?” her name would be the one you’d hear over and over.
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.