Amy Widderich is a woman in near constant motion.
Whether it’s walking a queasy child from a classroom, taking a temperature or dispensing hugs and encouragement to anxious kids, Widderich, the nurse at Grove Park Elementary School in Burlington, rarely gets to complete a sentence before she’s interrupted by a child, or a teacher, or one of the other staff at the school.
“I get here early so I can catch up on email, check for faxes, get myself organized, and in the morning I usually greet the kids,” she said when asked how her day looks. “I have a couple of students who come in and take daily meds, and then the flow of kids off of the bus starts.”
Sure enough, once kids start swarming into the building, a handful of them make their way into the health room next to the principal’s office. By 7:40 a.m., there’s one child with autism sitting on the day bed eating breakfast, another arrives complaining of a tummy ache, all the while a teacher bends Widderich’s ear about a student whose psychiatric medicine seems to be making him more agitated.
Widderich takes it all in stride. What she’s able to do — dig in, get to know students and staff, teach prevention activities, monitor illnesses, administer medications and more — has been made possible, in part, because Grove Park is the only school she’s responsible for.
But across North Carolina, most local school districts are unable to have a nurse in every school. About 41 percent of school nurses serve one school, 36 percent serve two and 22 percent of school nurses serve three or more schools.