School Nurse, Washington Elementary School
West Haven (Conn.) Federation of Teachers and School Nurses, Local 1547
School nursing is a passion for Saundra McCauley. For the last 26 years, McCauley has committed herself to helping students and their families. “I try to get to know the children,” says McCauley. “Eventually, I find out what their problems are and what I can do to help.” McCauley’s help often comes in the form of Christmas gifts, Thanksgiving baskets or lunch money.
“School nursing is so different now than when I first started,” says McCauley. “I have grown with the job.” Her growth is not just in skills and education; McCauley is more than willing to go the extra mile for her students. “Students are needier, and I like being able to help. Sick, sad or hungry children can’t learn,” she says.
Whenever McCauley sees a need, she figures out a way to help. She has approached her local pharmacy to donate nebulizers for children with asthma, set up a bike safety program for students, and held an after-school program to teach children how to knit and crochet. “Members of the community are very supportive. They will respond if you ask,” she says.
As a school nurse in West Haven, McCauley is lucky and she knows it. Her school district is rare: There is a nurse in every school here. But, as nurse president of her local, the West Haven Federation of Teachers and School Nurses, she has to fight to maintain those positions.
“Every child needs a school nurse. I will always argue that,” says McCauley. “I can’t fathom having more than one school. You’re just not effective that way, and it’s not fair to the children. I’ll tell anyone who wants to cut school nurses, come follow me for a day, do what I do and then tell me you don’t need a school nurse.”
Being nominated as an AFT Everyday Hero was a surprise for McCauley. “It’s just me being me, and I think a lot of other school nurses are the same way.” Still, she hopes the nomination will serve to make others more aware of the role of the school nurse. “We have to keep ourselves out in front of the public in a positive way. This is a great way to get the message out that we do make a difference. Children need an advocate.”