Essay by C. Camarillo

Excellence of School Nursing

As I try to form my thoughts into words I begin to look back through my ten years as a School Nurse at the Chicago Public Schools.  I reflect on a particular day as a first year nursing student at the University of Illinois at the College of Nursing.  I recall a little white lady with silver white hair, proudly walking into my Public Health Class.  As she crosses the classroom I notice that she is carrying a big black medical bag and places it upon her desk.  The students focus their attention upon this woman and the room becomes silent with looks of curiosity.  The woman begins to speak, “hello, my name is Evelyn Kahn and I will soon become known to you all as the bag lady.”  I remember thinking, “how strange that someone could be so proud of being labeled ‘the bag lady.’”  Yet even stranger still is that as a school nurse, I will become known as “the bag lady” myself.

Years later, I was enrolled in the School Nurse Internship class at the University of Illinois to obtain my certification for school nursing.  I was still undecided in regards to school nursing or remaining at the University of Illinois in the NNICU as a staff nurse.  This was my final class for certification and I felt torn between closing a clinical door and opening an educational one as a school nurse.  Just as I was pondering my choices as a nurse, the little white lady with silver white hair walked into my classroom.  As she passed my chair she smiled at me and inquired, “have you found your bag yet in nursing?”  I smiled and thought, “I believe that I have and my bag will be that of school nursing.”

Although it is true that I travel the many schools in the city of Chicago with my bag filled with forms and clinic referrals.  The most important item that I take along with me are the words that I can still remember today, my bag is School Nursing.  It is the person that I have chosen to become.

At times excellence comes in a form that only you can understand.  In my earlier years as a school nurse, I cared for a little girl with frequent nosebleeds.  I was concerned and referred her to a doctor.  The following year, I was reassigned to another school.  I was shopping recently and a young lady approached me.  It was the grown up little girl.  Vanessa hugged me and thanked me for sending her to the doctor.  It happened that she had three liver transplants and the last one had been successful.

The true meaning of excellence of school nursing for me is guided by the words that I carry in my heart and through the halls of the schools, “I am ‘the bag lady.’”  I walk proudly into each school and announce that I am the School Nurse, with my bag held tightly by my side.

Cynthia Camarillo