“My tummy hurts.” When a child utters those words at school, the school nurse is there to offer care and comfort. When asthma attacks, the school nurse is there to alleviate breathing difficulties. When a student with Type 1 diabetes needs blood sugar monitoring or an insulin injection, the school nurse is there to ensure good health. And when a student is feeling depressed or anxious, the school nurse is there to provide mental health support.
Most Livermore families first meet school nurses when they register at the Kindergarten Fair, and they get to know the nurses over the years. Along with three health technicians – Kimberly Adams, Nola Rechtin, and Denise Roberts – six school nurses coordinate their schedules to serve the students, staff, and families throughout the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. They bring education, experience, and a love of children to their work, with the goal of keeping students healthy, safe and ready to learn.
Carolyn Reggiardo works at Altamont Creek Elementary, Jackson Ave Elementary, East Ave Middle, and Livermore High Schools. A registered nurse since 1990, Reggiardo provided acute care in a level 2 trauma center in San Jose, and was a labor and delivery nurse in San Jose and at ValleyCare in Pleasanton. For over 15 years, she has supported Livermore students from transitional kindergarten through the 12th grade.
“I love watching students grow and I am continually amazed by their resilience, maturity, and commitment to their education,” said Reggiardo.
Depending on the day of the week, Julie Howard helps students at Christensen Middle, Junction Ave K-8,
Livermore High, or Arroyo Seco Elementary. School nursing has been her calling for 17 years, following 15 years as an RN with Children’s Hospital and AXIS. Howard said she loves the daily camaraderie with staff as well as students and their families.
“I look forward to being back together in person at the earliest, safest opportunity,” she said.
With schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nurse’s offices may be quiet, but that doesn’t mean the district’s team of health professionals hasn’t been busy. The nurses have continued to work closely with the superintendent and district leadership.
“I count on our nurses to provide public health expertise and advice as we navigate this pandemic,” said Superintendent Kelly Bowers.
Nurses have been assisting with the procurement Personal Protective Equipment and the distribution of school meals, and have been providing medical information and resources as the district maps out an eventual return to the classrooms. Just as teachers have been active online, nurses have continued to participate in virtual meetings, such as development of Individual Education Plans, Coordination of Services meetings, and parent liaison.
Jennifer Daily, who is assigned to Sunset Elementary and Granada High communities, said “I love working directly with students and miss that personal connection right now.”
Daily has 22 years’ experience in health care, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Brigham Young University and both a master’s degree in nursing and her school nursing credential at California State University, Sacramento.
School nursing is a highly specialized area of nursing practice that requires advanced education and clinical preparation. A credentialed school nurse must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, be licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing, and complete an approved credential program consisting of 25 university credits and two years of clinical experience as a school nurse.
Cat Arthur, an RN and Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (C-FNP) uses her previous professional experience at Kaiser Permanente and Stanford ValleyCare to help meet the needs of the preschoolers at Croce Elementary and the communities of Marylin Ave Elementary and Del Valle Continuation High.
“I wanted to work in my community assisting multicultural families, not only academically, but in a whole person approach as well,” said Arthur when asked why she became a school nurse. “School nursing has allowed me to reach across Livermore utilizing my nursing skills, my bilingual education, and my love for students with special needs.”
LVJUSD nurses work with child welfare specialists and school administrators to ensure families have their basic physical needs met. Nurses usually know a student’s family by name and know their housing, food, and medical care needs. They often know which students and families need mental health support, and routinely match families with community resources.
“It is so rewarding when you work with the family, student, school staff and other providers to put a plan in place to best support a student in the school setting,” said Laura Curran, who works at Lawrence Elementary, Smith Elementary, Vineyard Alternative, and Mendenhall Middle Schools.
For 17 years, Curran has loved the challenge and variety of serving as a school nurse. “No two days are alike, and I thrive on that,” she said.
In addition to her previous hospital work as an urgent care and labor and delivery nurse, Curran has worked in an asthma clinic and was part of the team that launched the Student Health Center at Ohlone College.
For 11 years, students at Rancho Elementary, Joe Michell K-8, and Granada High have received the care and support of Shelley Casey.
“I’m inspired by helping students learn to cope with and grow from the health-related challenges that they face,” Casey said. “To see them overcome obstacles and succeed is so rewarding.”
An RN with 29 years of experience, Casey earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from San Diego State University and her School Nurse Credential from California State University, Fresno.
Although COVID-19 has interrupted the daily routines of school nurses, they continue to implement and oversee state-mandated programs such as vaccine compliance, vision and hearing, and oral health. They monitor and follow up on health conditions for current as well as incoming students. And they provide guidance so that teachers and paraeducators know how to care for students in an educational setting.
“Our nurses and health technicians provide critical support so that our students can learn when school is in session, and especially now that we are distance learning,” said Superintendent Bowers.