By JESSICA KRAMPE
Lisa Thompson-Griggs joined the West Junior High School staff this fall as the new school nurse.
A graduate of MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, Griggs has long known she wanted to build her life around a career that allowed her to contribute and serve others. Before becoming a school nurse, Griggs worked in a Kansas City intensive care unit. There, she specialized in caring for certain types of patients but faced a diversity of cases in the school system.
“It’s quite different,” Griggs said of working in a school environment. “There are a wide variety of medical needs.”
Before working full time at West Junior High, Griggs was a substitute nurse for the Columbia Public Schools in the spring. She worked full time over the summer at both Grant Elementary School and Russell Boulevard Elementary School.
“I enjoy working with children,” Griggs said. “I ultimately hope to get into teaching more preventative type of healthcare.”
Griggs eventually wants to run short programs in and out of the classroom teaching basic healthy living. She said drugs and alcohol are typical subjects but she wants to emphasize healthy eating and exercising habits so students can relate. She hopes the general program will ultimately reach the Columbia community.
Busier than she realized she would ever be, Griggs said she is blown away by the amount of work.
“I have great respect for the other nurses that have been doing this over the years,” she said.
Mary Whitener was West Junior High’s nurse for 16 years before Griggs took over the position. She said the nurse’s job is to provide a seamless experience for the students.
“There are a lot of kids that have a challenge every day beyond doing well in the classroom,” she said. “The rewarding part is to be part of that, to help a kid have a normal school day.”
Whitener provided some tips for Griggs, saying patience is key as school nurse. The job requires multitasking and preparedness makes the day flow more easily. Whitener added that Griggs should never be afraid to ask for help and get questions answered.
“No today is the same, and you never know what is going to happen,” she said. “It’s always an interesting day.”
Columbia Public Schools has 23 registered nurses and five licensed practical nurses in the district. School nurses are required to be licensed in the state of Missouri.
Lori Osborne, health service coordinator for the district, described the application process for the school nurse position, which involves interviewing candidates with a panel of retired and current school nurses. They make a group recommendation based on those conversations.
After being hired, the nurses go through a full-day orientation to review policy and procedure and another half-day orientation to go over the use of the district’s computer system. They must also complete a four-hour Red Cross training and another four-hour training on specific issues they will encounter in the health rooms.
Once school nurses receive their school assignment, they are paired up with an experienced school nurse for one year. This mentoring program allows new nurses to have their questions answered and receive on-site assistance, Osborne said.
“There is a lot more than just taking care of the student when they come into the health room,” she said. “Total care.”