Friday, February 23, 2024

New School Nurses Filling Important Role at Cascade School District


This year, Cascade School District has two new school nurses, Crystal Clabaugh and Samantha Jerome. Both arrived with a wealth of experience from hospital settings. “My background includes emergency room, endoscopy, COVID response and nursing leadership,” said Jerome. As a longtime local with children in the district, she was excited to make the switch to school nursing because, as she said, “Adding value and contributing to my community are two things that are very important to me. Working in the schools is a great way to engage with and give back to my community.”

Clabaugh, who had worked for a decade in adult critical and acute care, explained, “I was exploring my job options when I saw the district was looking for a nurse. I knew that was exactly what I was looking for. A job that allows me to be engaged in our community, support the health of our youth, and gives me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. I have two small children of my own that are just now entering school, and I have become very passionate about being involved in their school community as much as I can.”

As two nurses in a district of four major schools, each splits their time at two of them, with Clabaugh starting her day at Alpine Lakes Elementary (ALP) and ending at Cascade High School (CHS), while Jerome splits her time between Peshastin Dryden Elementary (PD) and Icicle River Middle School (IRMS). Additionally, Jerome attends to any needs of the Kodiak Cubs Preschool and Home Link and Clabaugh oversees health needs at Beaver Valley School and Discovery School.

COVID-related mandates may be a thing of the past, but COVID testing, and protocols are still a part of the nurses’ every day. “It is still highly infectious and can make some individuals seriously ill,” said Jerome, “We are dealing with it on a daily basis, but it has become part of the fabric of our infectious disease response, and we know what we need to do to deal with it. It has become second nature after nearly three years.”

Clabaugh added, “We are responsible for reporting outbreaks to our local health department and implementing plans to mitigate further spread of the illness. We offer in-school COVID testing and run a drive through the testing site daily. We have a Medical Specialist, Chloe, that helps to run our COVID-19 program.”

Earlier this winter, sickness ramped up, not so much due to COVID, but due to the flu. “This year’s flu season was very rough,” said Clabaugh. “We had upwards of 20-25% of our schools sick during the peak of the outbreak.

“The illness came on so quick for some, they were fine when they left home in the morning and ended up with temperatures as high as 104℉ by lunch. Our biggest worry was dehydration and febrile seizures in some of our very little kids. But as quickly as the flu season came, it was gone just as quickly.”

Being the medical personnel in a school means the nurses have to be ready at all times of the school day to assess and care for a range of student needs. A large part of their job is to lead the other school staff on issues around health and safety, sharing their expertise so other staff have the tools and knowledge to support students.

“Collaboration with the front office admin assistant team is a huge part of our day,” Jerome said. “When a nurse is not in the building, the admin teams step in to help students with a variety of healthcare needs. The relationship nursing has with the main office is important for many reasons that all relate to student success, health and safety.”

Miriam Rodriguez, secretary at PD, concurred on the importance of their partnership, saying, “We are very fortunate to have Sam and Crystal. Their collaboration with all schools and teamwork is impressive! Their caring, empathetic and fun personalities are reflected in the relationships they are creating with the students and their families.”

Teamwork doesn’t stop there. As Clabaugh explained, “We work with teachers very closely when they have students with acute and chronic illness, injuries, or other health concerns. When we create health plans, this involves a team including the principal, the special education director, the teacher, the counselor, and the parent(s). We work with the transportation department to keep kids with health concerns safe on our buses. We collaborate with the kitchen supervisor to help set up accommodations for students with specialized food needs. We collaborate with Tracey [Beckendorf-Edou], the superintendent, with things such as policies and health guidelines for the district.”

Counselors take the lead on mental health and substance abuse issues, but the nurses also play a role, especially if a student has physical symptoms. And regarding drug or alcohol issues, Clabaugh said, “Our approach is to educate, support and find help for any students who struggle with substance abuse. I work with a fantastic team that helps to surround students with support as much as we can.”

“How to Spot a School Nurse” is a picture that ALP secretary Sonia Davenport has shared with the nurses. It depicts someone with a “head full of knowledge, ears ready to listen, a concerned and caring heart, helping, healing hands, a big friendly smile, band aids, and tissues for drying tears and blowing noses, and sensible shoes for running around all day.” It’s a sweet and honest tribute to the work and leadership of Clabaugh and Jerome.



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