Let’s hear it for school nurses


The Mirror

If it weren’t for school nurses, hundreds of children in Federal Way would not have health care.

In a school district with nearly 50 percent of students living in poverty, many families do not have medical insurance. Immigrant families are often hesitant to apply for state medical care.

“We are sometimes the only health care provider our children see,” said Sue Overton, the district health services coordinator and a school nurse.

That leaves school nurses to discover and diagnose an array of medical problems, then help the family find affordable care.

Susan Maynard, a school nurse at Sequoyah Middle School, recalls the time a student came to her with a toothache. Maynard looked inside the child’s mouth and found a huge cavity. She helped the family, who didn’t have health insurance, find an affordable dentist.

Connecting a family with community resources for health care is one of the most rewarding aspects of her job, Maynard said.

“That’s a big plus, when I finally get them connected,” she said. “Some kids really need to see the doctor.”

For school nurses, the financial rewards aren’t as great as they would be in the private sector. School nurses make the same salary as teachers, which in Federal Way ranges from $31,000 to $59,000 depending on education and experience. According to, the median salary for a registered nurse in the United States is $59,061.

Overton said she took a 50 percent cut in pay when she left her hospital job in 1997 to become a school nurse.

“The school nurses, obviously we’re not here for the money,” she said. “We have a real passion for our children.”

School nurses are essential for students’ academic achievement, Overton said, “in order for children to learn they have to be healthy.”

“If you don’t have a healthy child they’re not going to learn. They’re not going to pass the WASL. They’re not going to graduate,” Overton said.

School nurses deal with much more than stomachaches and skinned knees. Maynard, thumbing through a thick binder, listed off a number of conditions she cares for at Sequoyah: Sickle cell anemia, seizures, Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome, paranoid schizophrenia, depression, asthma and fetal alcohol syndrome, to name a few.

School nurses also educate students about health and nutrition.

On Wednesday, school nurses will be recognized during National School Nurse Day. Maynard suggests celebrating the holiday by thanking a school nurse.

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

For more information about National School Nurse Day, visit the National Association of School Nurses Web site at

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