New School Nurse

The difference one person can make is incredible.

Karen Hargrave discusses diabetes at schoolBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaza

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

July 2009 — Timing is everything, in so many parts of life. And never before has that point been more clearly illustrated to me than in my recent trip to the new school nurse's office at the junior high school. My son Joel and I, along with his friend Tessa, who also has diabetes, and her Mom Tammy, went to meet the junior high school nurse, since she will be their new school nurse next year. The saying "you never get a second chance to make a first impression," just jumped into my mind. How true, and how unfortunate for Joel and Tessa's new school nurse. It will be very hard for her to live down their first impression of her. She was rigid and cold, and her obvious lack of confidence in her own skills made Joel and Tessa doubt her abilities. She compared them to her current diabetic student, and informed Tessa and Joel that many of the things they do to treat their diabetes haven't been done in her school before. She really set the stage for their smooth adjustment!

For this story to make sense, I need to back up. Joel has had diabetes for almost six years. He was diagnosed in second grade and is now going into eighth grade.  In elementary school, he had the worst school nurse to ever hold a syringe or count a carb. Tessa was diagnosed with diabetes just last fall, the week before seventh grade began. The nurse that Joel and Tessa had in middle school was the absolute best. The past two years have been like a wonderful dream, the kind you never want to wake up from. It has been like them having their own private endocrinologist who knows how to treat them medically while nurturing their independence. She also just happens to be fun and great with 13-year-olds.

So, to summarize, Joel went through four years with a terrible nurse upon whom he was unfortunately dependent because of his age. He then moved on to the wonderful Mrs. Smith, building his confidence as he was allowed to manage his own disease. Tessa is still so tentative with her own disease, as any teen would be being so recently diagnosed. She also has never had a school nurse besides Mrs. Smith, who would be a tough act to follow for any school nurse. Tessa has not transitioned from one school to another since her diagnosis, and this will be a very tough one. For his first school transition, Joel went from a bad nurse to a great one, while Tessa will go from a great nurse to a bad one. Of the two, I would rather go from bad to great!

While Joel and I would like the new school nurse to be warm, wonderful, fun, and great at her job, Tammy and Tessa NEED her to be. They are still in a place of great uncertainty, one that requires knowing that you and your child are safe. I remember being there, and it is a terribly frightening and lonely place. It isn't something you can understand if you haven't been there and it isn't anything I would go back to for anything in the world, unless it meant I could prevent Tammy and Tessa from having to be there now.

This sounds like such a sad story, but I don't want it to end that way. It is really about the progress you can make over time as your knowledge and confidence build. It is about the growth you can see in yourself and your child after a long and difficult journey. It is about seeing that Joel and I used to be where Tammy and Tessa are now, and that through our learning and hard work, we moved beyond that place. And it is about the fact that someday Tammy and Tessa will be there too. Until then, they have us to help them. We will be there to remind them that the uncertain feelings they have will not last forever, that Joel is there to help Tessa in whatever way he can while I am there for Tammy. That all the work that Mrs. Smith did with these kids will carry them far beyond a junior high school or its nurse's office. She has given them a foundation on which to build a life of self-reliant diabetes care and self-confidence in all areas of their lives.

The real goal here is for Joel and Tessa to work towards a time when they really won't need the new school nurse anyway. She will become a supervisor for them as they manage their disease themselves.

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: June 26, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.
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