Creating a culture of caring: Celebrating School Nurse Day 2013!


Every day, 180 school nurses and 33 health assistants provide comprehensive health services to support student learning in Baltimore County Public Schools. Every BCPS school is staffed by a full-time registered nurse, and some schools have additional health services staffing.

Below are excerpts from a message Deborah Somerville, R.N., coordinator of health services for BCPS, shared with her staff in honor of School Nurse Day 2013:

I looked back over the past 10 years to see if I could measure how school nursing has changed… and it was easy.

Those of you who have been in BCPS for 10 years have seen many of these changes. First, our population is changing – 10 years ago, about 35% of elementary students and 19% of high school students qualified for free or reduced price meals. Now, 49% of elementary students and 40% of high school students qualify. You don’t need to be a math wizard to know that is a significant change.

As you have all seen, we are also working in an increasingly diverse school system. The percentage of students who are limited English speakers has increased by more than 20%

I talk about these two areas because they are two areas that significantly affect children’s health status. Access to high-quality health care is reduced by poverty, inability to access health insurance, and cultural barriers.

When we look at your monthly report statistics, we can also see that you are much busier on clinical nursing care – the number of clinical treatments has increased by about 30% in eight years – meaning that you are doing 1/3 more clinical treatments each day.

So our team spent last summer trying to help you. We gave you wonderful new tools for assessments, care plans, classroom plans and bus plans. While many of these tools are helpful, we know that we have once again raised the bar.

Dr. Dance often uses two phrases – “deliberate excellence” and “culture of caring.” I find these two phrases reassuring – because if there is ever a program that represents deliberate excellence and a culture of caring, it’s the health services program in BCPS.

When I explain our nursing model to new folks within (and outside) of BCPS, I boast about what a wonderful program we have and why it’s so great to be part of this school nursing program. When I’m in the school covering and/or talking to a secretary about what to do when you are sick… I realize that you are their only nurse (and if they are so blessed, health assistant) – you are the person who they rely on for all things health. You are the person who delivers the deliberately excellent health services program, who lives the words “culture of caring” … you are the person who brings that to life…. You are the ONE.

So what does deliberate excellence look like? It looks like what you do each day. It looks like all of those treatments, medications, and student visits you handle so that health does not become a barrier to student achievement. It also looks like all of those “extra” things you squeeze in between your routine work.

You listen and reassure, listen and educate, listen and comfort. This is what it takes to create a culture of caring and a deliberately excellent program.

A School Nurse Day celebration
In January 2013, trainers from the county fire department came to Parkville High and worked with BCPS nurses on management of trauma in the school setting.


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