LCPS Celebrates National School Nurse Day
District boasts a licensed RN at each school campus
In high school, Lori Foster thought she wanted to be a calculus and trigonometry teacher. On a road trip with friends to visit a prospective college in Texas, a car travelling in her group blew a tire and rolled over. The sequence of events following that crash would change the course of her life forever.
“My friends were injured,” recalls Foster, who is now a registered nurse at Valley View Elementary in Las Cruces. “We ended up with them in a small-town hospital and none of us were adults. I came out of that experience thinking, ‘If that is what nurses are, I can do better!’”
More than 40 years later, Foster has accomplished that goal. Since graduating from Baylor University with a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s from New Mexico State University, Foster worked as a labor and delivery nurse and in a pediatric/neonatal ICU before coming to Las Cruces Public Schools.
Wednesday is National School Nurse Day, and another opportunity for the district to celebrate Foster and 43 other registered nurses in LCPS. The designation was first made by President Gerald Ford in 1974 in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday in 1820.
“We are fortunate to be one of a very few school districts nationwide to have a registered nurse at every school building,” said Shawna Bailey, coordinator of health services for LCPS, and also a registered nurse. “In addition, we have 15 health assistants to help out our RNs, which is a tremendous support to our students and staff. Being a school nurse, you never know what’s going to walk through the door.”
According to Bailey, nurses in LCPS must have a bachelor’s degree, a current New Mexico RN license, a current New Mexico school nurse license from the Public Education Department and they must also have three years of experience as a registered nurse. Additional certifications, like CPR, are also required.
“My background experiences are a good fit, because school nursing isn’t only about Band-Aids and ice packs,” said Foster. “My 21 years in LCPS were spent mostly here at Valley View with medically fragile children; I care for students with tracheostomies, gastric feeding tubes and urinary catheterizations. I became a nurse to care, serve and help, and in return, I am still learning so much.”
Despite choosing nursing, Foster says she never left her love of math.
“For years, I have compiled the monthly statistics for all 42 schools to file our yearly report with the state,” said Foster. “It’s a great opportunity to use my love for Excel spreadsheets!”
Later this month, Foster will retire after 21 years with LCPS.
“Oh, the memories,” she fondly recalls of her students over the years. “I remember two boys who brought me a tooth they said ‘fell out’ at recess. They wanted a tooth box for it, so I took a look at the tooth and saw it was over half an inch long! They didn’t realize they had actually found a canine tooth.”
Another favorite memory was the time a student was looking at Foster’s bulletin board that illustrated the skeletal system.
“The student’s face lit up and she said, ‘Oh! That’s why they call it a funny bone – it’s the humerus!’”
As she wraps up a career spanning four decades, Foster acknowledges working during a pandemic was especially difficult.
“COVID took the students out of the building, and I missed them so much,” she recalls of the last year. “I know I will miss them in retirement, too. They may forget my name, but they will always remember how I made them feel.”
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