The HSC team caught up with Saria Lofton, a school nurse in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), on the last day of classes to spotlight her integral role in promoting health and wellness. Saria is a graduate of HSC's School Nurse Leadership Training, a program that prepares school nurses to take on leadership roles to promote wellness or environmental health in their schools.She has shared her leadership skills at several school nursing conferences. For more than six years, Lofton has served as a school nurse. She began her career working in hospitals, but transitioned to CPS after she did community service with a school.
Saria fits five CPS schools into her jam-packed schedule. Her day starts with meetings to discuss special needs, followed by assessments, wellness checks, phone interviews, and follow-up on asthma and food allergy action plans. Lofton seizes the opportunity to provide resources beyond the typical first-aid.
“I also educate teachers about cross-contamination, asthma, and other health challenges the students face,” she said. “I try to talk to everyone: teachers, classes, and parents.”
When she has time, she likes work on nutrition education and gardening projects with students. “One of my schools added a garden, where we have planted tomatoes,” she said.
She also spends time in the classroom, by looking at food ingredients and nutritional value with students. Lofton’s priority is to bring a new perspective on health and wellness to the schools.
The school nurse notes that much of her progress is informal. “I have more access to parents, staff, and administration to discuss health and wellness,” she said.
Saria points out that school nurses are often underutilized despite their significant roles in the well-being of students.
“We have a lot of potential to greatly impact the lives of students, especially with children that already have health challenges,” she said. “Schools nurses have a wealth experience from working in a variety of settings and have so much to offer.”
Lofton encourages people to think of her role beyond first-aid. “School nurses have a wide array of knowledge: disease prevention, chronic illness, and dealing with health and wellness overall.” She encourages people to “utilize school nurses to their fullest potential; it is in the benefit of the whole school and the whole community.”
She adds, “people should know that we are invaluable resources beyond band-aids and cuts. When kids aren’t receiving the essential necessities impacting their health, we can be an integral force in providing multidisciplinary approach to education.”
We are grateful to Ms. Lofton for speaking with us about her role as a school nurse, leader, and health advocate!
Plus! Check out Saria Lofton speaking at a HSC event.