Making it all better
King Street School nurse dispenses plenty of
tender, loving care
By Eileen FitzGerald
DANBURY – "Excuse me. I have
a paper cut."
"It seems I have a bloody nose."
School nurse Beverly Ackell leapt into action.
She soothed one child with a Band-Aid and helped the other blow
her nose, which wasn't bloody after all.
Ackell is the school nurse at King Street Primary School, where
kindergartners through second-graders come to her brightly decorated
office for consolation, repairs, medication or sometimes just a
break from class.
"This is the best age level. They are so innocent. Everything is
new, a joy to them,'' said Ackell, who might see up to 25 kids on a
The 67-year-old-Ackell has broad medical experience. She has
worked in operating rooms and in pediatric and geriatrics wards in
hospitals. Over the past 21 years, she worked in Danbury schools,
spending time at the middle and high schools before coming to the
King Street school 10 years ago.
Children come with many more problems today than when she first
started, she said. The school nurse now needs to be medically astute
and technologically enlightened to deal with children's demanding
medical conditions and complex social issues.
"They bring their
environment from home with its problems," she said. "They come with
a lot of baggage.''
The nurse's routines are the easy part. They vary depending on
the age of the children.
In the early grades, she said, the nurse gives every child a
yearly exam that records height, weight, hearing and vision and
keeps track of all immunizations. In addition, the nurse keeps a
record of every child's visit to her office, why they were there,
how they were treated and calls the parents to follow up, if
Outdoor recess is bound to bring children to her office with some
injury because the children are so lively, she said. Then there are
the epidemics of strep, ear aches, nausea, upper respiratory
infections and head lice that can be rampant at this age.
"You need to have a varied background to be a school nurse. You
need to be able to draw from your experiences," Ackell said.
While more children take medicine for hyperactivity at home
instead of at school as they did in the 1990s, nurses see other,
more complex medical needs these days.
For one, thing, more children have asthma and need medication
than ever before. This year, Ackell has six children in the school
with nut allergies, which can be life threatening.
That means she has on hand asthma medication for each child and
antihistamines in shot form ready for instant use.
And, because schools now mainstream children with special needs,
school nurses must be more informed about medical conditions and
keep records on each child with special medical requirements.
She also teaches hygiene at grade level. That means in first
grade teaching them how to blow their noses, how to wash their hands
and how to eat healthy.
The nurse is an integral part of the school staff, said King
Street principal Nancy Gurtner, who has been a principal for 16
years and on occasion has had to manage without a nurse in the
"There are more kids who come to school who are medically
fragile, more kids seem to have illnesses like asthma than was
recognized years ago,'' Gurtner said.
She said the school nurse has added importance in the lives of
families who don't have the time or sometimes the money to take
their children to the doctor. A mother might bring her child to
school in the morning and ask the nurse to take the child's
Gurtner said Ackell usually follows up on a child sent home sick
to make sure they don't come back to school too soon.
She said children like to visit Ackell, whose office is next to
"There are some children who would like to go in more often. They
get to leave the classroom and get a few kind words,'' Gurtner said.
"It's a little emotional haven for them. You have to find a happy
medium, for those who would benefit more by staying in class to
those who need the nurse's attention."
Ackell said the world can seem a little harsh today, and it plays
out in the health of the children.
"There is the fear of terror that we didn't know five years ago.
We may have known about it but it didn't touch us. And the kids know
what is happening,'' she said. "Stable home lives are not the norm.
In the future, I don't see it getting any better."
Still, she loves her job.
"I love it. I love the kids,'' Ackell said. "Every day goes so