Scott staffer honored as Ohio School Nurse of YearWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
In less than an hour during one recent morning at Scott High School, Maureen Knowles — or Nurse Knowles as she’s called — checked a softball player’s injured wrist, treated a student with seasonal allergies, arranged for a student’s parent to sign him out of school to see a doctor and sent several students back to class to obtain the required passes from their teachers.
“Can you wiggle all your fingers?” Knowles asked the softball player. “Ice is your friend.”
“Stay inside as much as possible — which I know you don’t like to do —but until those leaves are popped out, you really need to,” she told the boy with allergies.
“Go get a pass and I’d be happy to do that,” Knowles told a student who wanted his leg wrapped and another who was complaining of a headache.
“I’m very kind, but I’m also very firm,” Knowles said. “I think kids really respect that. I see it as I’m respectful of them and they are also respectful of me.”
A native of Steele, N.D., Knowles worked at Toledo Hospital as a registered nurse for 23 years before coming to Toledo Public Schools. She worked at Nathan Hale Elementary School for six years and McKinley Elementary School for four years and this is her third year at Scott.
Knowles was recently named Ohio School Nurse of the Year by the Ohio Association of School Nurses at the group’s annual conference.
“It’s fabulous,” Knowles said. “I was absolutely speechless. It was very nice.”
Scott High School Principal Treva Jeffries said the honor was well-deserved.
“We are very proud of Nurse Knowles and her accomplishments,” Jeffries said. “She does a lot here to uphold that honor on a daily basis.”
Being a school nurse is a lot like having an independent practice, Knowles said.
“You are the medical expert; there aren’t colleagues here to share decision-making,” Knowles said. “I enjoy that. It carries a lot of responsibility, but many rewards.”
Interacting with people is her favorite part of the job.
“I don’t just see students,” Knowles said. “Staff here will come to me with questions. I have several staff members who have their blood pressure checked regularly.”
Knowles notices which students are “frequent fliers” — as she refers to regular visitors — and will start asking more questions.
“I wouldn’t say their visits are unnecessary,” Knowles said. “They’re coming for a reason. It might be they really do have a stomachache or it might be there’s something going on at home that’s upsetting or they might really not like that class and aren’t doing well or they have a big test that day or their boyfriend just broke up with them.”
When Knowles suspects a nonmedical issue, she might talk to a parent (always with the student’s permission), send them to visit the school’s guidance counselors or art therapist or refer them to a community agency or physician.
Besides daily visits, Knowles also performs the state’s required vision and hearing screenings for ninth-graders and special education students. She also mentors student nurses from Lourdes University and the University of Toledo who come to Scott for clinicals.
She is also part of a team working to create legislation that would require Ohio schools to keep EpiPens on hand for first-time allergic reactions. Twelve states currently require it, said Knowles, who will speak May 20 at a conference hosted by the Toledo Allergy Society.
“It might save their life,” Knowles said.
Knowles holds a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s in education with a school nurse certification. She is also a nationally certified school nurse.
“Only about 1 percent of the school nurses in the United States carry that designation,” Knowles said.
Knowles became interested in school nursing after seeing so many cases where a lifetime of poor health habits led to a medical emergency.
“I thought, ‘Man, if I could be in the schools and help kids learn how to do wise things for their health, how to live a healthy life, we wouldn’t need to be doing this kind of thing,” Knowles said.
“I love what I do,” she said. “It’s fun and it makes a difference.”