Morris Grove Nurse Cares for Kids While Empowering Faculty to be First Responders

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Lara with students Aiden Cohlmeyer, 9, Lah Zar Wei, 9, and Madisyn Wilson, 6. Photo by Briana Brough

Nursing was a natural choice for Lara Statile. “Growing up, I was always the caretaker of those who were sick or injured,” Lara remembers. She still remembers her first day of nursing school at UNC. “I knew with certainty that I had made the right decision about what to do with my life,” she says.

Still, Lara admits she was worried when she started at Morris Grove Elementary. “I had a business as a doula for several years before this, and it was so fulfilling – I wasn’t sure a ‘normal’ job would be a fit for me at this stage of my career.”

That feeling didn’t last long. “Whether I’m helping a child with a daily tummy ache, find out why they’re hurting, or [hear] a student is struggling in class and we discover it is because they need glasses, it is so wonderful to see that click and the resulting improvement,” she says.

Much of what Lara does is anticipating and, where possible, preventing potential injuries and health problems. “School nursing is different than most other nursing professions,” she says. While most nurses work to help those who are already sick or injured in their recovery, school nursing allows for a different opportunity: encountering mostly healthy children and keeping them that way.

Another part of that is helping families identify health concerns early on, enabling them to prevent complications. Lara educates students and staff about health and wellness and ensures those with pre-existing conditions are safe and cared for, so they can concentrate on learning. “With each student I encounter, I think about how I would want my own child to be cared for.”

Lara also works with several students with chronic disabilities and helps them find the resources they need. “I work a lot in conjunction with social workers and counselors. We really put our heads together, talk to their teachers and parents and look at every aspect of care.”

In addition to caring directly for students, she trains other faculty to be first responders. Though Lara frequently consults other nurses in the district, she says, “I am the sole health care professional in building, so it is a unique situation.” However, “people volunteer at each school in CHCCS and put in an extraordinary amount of extra training to serve as first responders,” Lara says. Frequently, she notes, the physical education teachers are the first to raise their hands – they already have a good understanding of student health needs.

“When training staff for how to deal with potential medical emergencies, it is my goal to empower them with the knowledge that will enable them to handle the situation,” she says. From knowing how to recognize an allergic reaction to how to properly administer an EpiPen, she ensures teachers and other staff members are prepared for these potentially life-saving situations.

At the end of the day, Lara says the best part of her job is knowing the Morris Grove Elementary team is working seamlessly together toward the common goal of student success. “Every single staff member does their part to make sure the student feels safe, loved and ready to learn.”

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Morgan Weston

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