Our School Nurse Leadership Training and school nurse advocacy efforts create opportunities to connect with school nurses, who are phenomenal resources and often untapped champions for wellness in their schools. One such advocate is Sheila Grogan.
After 17 years working as a medical-surgical nurse in Chicago, Sheila switched to school nursing. For Grogan, the turning point came after she assisted a neighbor, a special needs teacher, with a party for students. Since then, special needs children have been the focus of Sheila's 22 year school nursing career.
"I love my job, I love the people I work with. Special education teachers are some of the most hard-working, dedicated people I've met in my life,” said Grogan. “This work is giving back to society. If we are able-bodied, it's our call to help those that aren't able-bodied.”
Sheila serves 125 students in her case load and supervises nine nurses who provide direct student care to these students categorized as "severe and profound," with both cognitive and medical needs. Sheila's job includes 17 classrooms in 15 different buildings across her district.
The school nurse attributes much of her success to her colleagues. “The team I work with is very gifted, and truly care about the outcomes of their students and they help the children be the most successful in life that they could be,” she said. “Our team comes back to school each day [to think of] new ways to work with these kids. I'm very proud to work alongside the teachers in our program."
Sheila doesn't see a leader as just one person who would have many followers. She feels "leaders motivate groups to move in a positive direction so you need to be equal to the people in your group. In a school setting, not just one person can do it. My style is that I like to work with groups and to bring my knowledge as a nurse who's the only medical person on the team -- the nurse is bringing a whole point of view that you need to educate people about." The goal is to "have happy, healthy students and families. The nurse is in the center."
Through the School Nurse Leadership Program, Grogan realized how she can become an asset to her school. Sheila says: "The program made me realize I did have leadership qualities and that I should use them. Before, I wasn't very comfortable being in charge and now I am. My nursing supervisory role certainly has grown and I'm much more comfortable with that and with guiding the group and saying, 'No I don't think that's in the best interest of the students.' I use my voice more and state my opinions.”
Sheila was concerned about the nutrition and physical activity of her students and during the leadership course she advocated for healthier snacks in the classrooms that include all five food groups and for a movement specialist who works directly with students. Additionally, Sheila instituted family education to teach parents how to help their children become more active, including yoga classes.
Working with special needs students ages 3-25 has been rewarding for Sheila. Her goal is "getting kids to move on to be productive successful citizens. With this population with cognitive problems, you want them to be successful at whatever level they can be."
Sheila is an award-winning school nurse leader. Last year, the National Association of School Nurses made her the first Special Needs Nurse of the Year recipient and the Illinois Association of School Nurses named her School Nurse of the Year.
Kudos to Sheila for her hard work and accomplishment as a school nurse leader!