Viewfinder: Nurse Nettles is one-stop shop for healthPublished 12:06am Tuesday, November 26, 2013
NATCHEZ — Caring for almost 600 elementary school children is a big job, but Frazier Elementary School nurse Jeannine Nettles wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I always wanted to be a nurse and I love babies and children, so working in an elementary school was a perfect fit,” Nettles said.
Each morning Nettles performs her rounds. She tries to make it a goal to visit each of the classrooms to check and see how the students and teachers are doing.
“We’re like a family here and we have to take care of each other,” Nettles said. “My job is to make sure both students and staff are healthy and able to learn.”
Once back in her office, Nettles doesn’t have to wait long before a student is walking over to sit in a blue chair next to her desk.
“They know to come and sit in the blue chair when they come to visit me, and then I try to remember their names,” she said. “In the beginning of the year, I try really hard to learn as many names as possible. If I can’t remember, then we play the game where I try to guess until I get the right name.”
Even a shy student gives Nettles a smile when she guesses the correct name before telling her what hurts.
“I’m always smiling, just trying to make a connection and let them know someone here cares about them,” she said.
Inevitably while on the phone with a parent of one student, another will walk in, especially with cold and flu season starting up. Nettles estimates she sees 30 students a day. In an effort to keep everyone healthy, she gives each student a glass of water and a squirt of hand sanitizer before they head back to class, and she keeps her room smelling of Lysol. In between helping walk-in students and calling parents, Nettles screens every first and third grade students’ hearing and vision.
“It’s a juggling act,” she said.
As third graders come and go in groups of two or three after having their hearing and sight tested, a “code green” can be called over the school’s intercom. A code green means a student has gotten sick.
“I never know what’s going to walk through my door,” Nettles said. “That’s the fun part of my job; it’s never monotonous. I see everything from headaches to lost teeth to paper wedged in an ear.”
Unfazed by the code green, Nettles continues to administer a hearing test; while waiting for the sick student to come in.
“Alright, now I’m going to play a sound for you and when you hear it, I want you to raise your hand,” she says smiling to third grader Omari Johnson. “Don’t be nervous just raise your hand when you hear the sound.”
In the middle of helping Johnson remove the headphones, a soft knock at the door alerts Nettles to the arrival of a sick student.
“I’ve heard you’re not feeling well, baby,” she says while pulling out a thick blue binder full of students’ contact information. “What’s your mom’s number?”
After reaching the student’s grandmother, Nettles offers to let the student lie down while they wait.
“I treat these students like my own children; they’re my babies,” she said. “I can’t help it, I love them. It’s a privilege to be their school nurse.”