I want to give a shout out to Elissa, school nurse extraordinaire. This spring, I nominated Elissa for a School Nurse recognition award. She has been selected to be honored by the Office of School Health for her contributions to our school community. Elissa and I will be going to the awards ceremony on Thursday afternoon.
In nominating Elissa for a recognition award, I highlighted her attention to individual students and her ability to advocate for them in thoughtful and personalized ways. Whether she is setting up families with medical specialists to support children, finding role models for students in need, listening to them as they navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood, or just creating a safe space for children, Elissa is a role model for me in how she cares for others.
Elissa recognizes that an important part of wellness for young people includes mental health. Elissa recently completed a Thrive training on assisting young people in mental health crisis. As a nurse in a middle school, she develops strong, trusting relationships with our students. Students then feel comfortable coming to her for a talk or support when they are stressed. Add to this intense work, Elissa also provides band-aids, ice packs and asthma pumps. She checks for fevers with the “mom thermometer” of a wrist to the forehead and with the Star Trek version where she uses a high tech tool to measure temperature with no skin contact. She is on top of all children with allergies, trains all teachers to use epipens, and monitors the health of children with chronic illness from diabetes to lupus. She is able to help children with lagging communication and sensory processing challenges successfully navigate regular visits to the nurse’s office. She knows most of the over 900 children in the school by name. I didn’t include in my recommendation for this award that Elissa has a ready ear for parents who are struggling and that she coaches our staff on our own healthcare because I was worried that it would get her “in trouble” for going above and beyond. Her office remains a respite for graduates who return to check in with her and for teachers and Manhattan Youth staff who need a little TLC.
One of our younger students had surgery on his Achilles tendons this winter. When his surgeon spoke to him about the next steps in his recovery, he confidently told the doctor that he would check with Elissa for her opinion. The doctor, confused, asked the mom who this “Elissa” is. The mom told him that she is our amazing school nurse.
So, hats off to Elissa for being an outstanding medical professional and human being. Largely remaining in her windowless office with her very cool thermometer, she is the Dr. Bones to my Captain Kirk.