Featured Nurse: School Nurse Kayla Rachels Ellis

How long have you been a school nurse?

I have been a school nurse going on my 4th year. I decided to become a school nurse to serve the community that invested so much into my education. You see, I am the nurse at my alma mater. We are a rural school. K-12 in one building. One school, one district. We serve just under 600 students. Many of these children do not have an established PCP. We have a FNP that is available in our county a few times a week. No dentist, no urgent care facility, no pediatrician.

Why did you get into school nursing?

I saw a need to bridge the gap not only for these children but for their families as well. A mobile dental unit services our school on-site twice a year. We consistently host 5 blood drives a year for Sheppard Community Blood Center and always meet the highschool hero status of surpassing 25 donors at each drive.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing at the moment going back to school?

We share the same challenges returning to school during the COVID-19 situation, that most other schools in our state resuming face to face learning are:

  • Reduced class size, providing an online option for learning while maintaining support for every student regardless of their learning choice.
  • Maintenance of social distancing and student cohorts throughout the day. The entire day. This fosters accurate contact tracing if the need arises.
  • Increased student education on the importance of distancing, hand washing, and cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Constant monitoring of these guidelines to ensure we can remain open safely.
  • A streamlined pickup and drop off system so each student and staff member can be screened and temp checked.
  • open communication between staff, parents, children, and auxiliary personnel with the nurse. This ensures non judgmental return after illness as well as identifying potential illness as early as possible
  • Updated non-touch hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout our building and game areas, topless trash cans, and plexiglass barriers have been installed.

These have been the bare minimum changes we have placed into effect. Our school system is a special one, I’m sure most will assume I feel this way because I am employed and have been ‘homegrown’ with this system. However, I have observed other school systems that are too, doing a wonderful job in these unpredictable times, our system continues to strive for improvement every day. Seeing an opportunity for improvement and acting on that opportunity as quickly as possible.

What would you tell Nurses out there with children who are sending their children back to school?

I’m not only the school nurse, I am the parent of a kindergarten student. The best advice I can give other nurses with children who are sending them back to school is to get to know your school nurse. I can’t think of any better assurance than a school nurse who is confident in sending her own child into the system where she works. Trust, communication, understanding, and flexibility are paramount during these times.


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Rachel Norton BSN, RN

I have been a critical care nurse since 2007. I grew up in the northeast but enjoy every corner of the country. My passions are people and travel. Travel nursing allows me to meet amazing people and satisfy my wanderlust. I love inspiring other nurses to travel and expand their practice.

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