School Nurse Feature: Patricia Pelligrini, Nottingham
Published on 5/11/16
District News Nottingham High School
Every Monday, Nottingham School Nurse Patricia Pelligrini brings a bag of apples and oranges to her office, as well as a case of water. She likes to keep them on hand for students who just need a snack in order to help them focus in class.
“If you don’t feel well—if you’re hungry or exhausted, you won’t be glad to be here,” she explained. “And if you’re not glad to be here, you’re not going to be successful.”
Being a school nurse is no longer just about doling out band aids, she said. Now, the increase in required vaccines, the increase in the number of student allergies, the increase in chronic illness and mental health issues and the increase in documentation requirements make for an extremely full plate for school nurses.
At the high school level, it also means taking the time to get to know students so you can determine the root cause of their health challenges. For some students, she said, they simply face unbelievable anxiety and are in need of a quiet, safe place to sit and reset. For those students, she pointed to what she calls the ‘breathing window.’ Students can sit and look outside, counting cars in the parking lot or birds in the trees until they feel calm enough to return to class.
“Adolescence is fabulous,” she said. “It really is. The students are exciting, they’re intense, they’re in your face. It’s the best. It’s the biggest life gets. But the real joy is in getting them to realize that their health is now their responsibility.”
Ms. Pelligrini focuses on teaching students how to handle chronic illness, such as diabetes and asthma, so they are able to manage these issues on their own.
“They’re old enough now that they need to learn to be proactive in managing their own health,” she said. “I love seeing the light bulb go on and seeing how their health can improve as a result.”
Daily, an average of 60-70 students visit her office. They trust her, they confide in her—some even call her grandma!
“This is such an enriching job,” Ms. Pelligrini insisted. “We try to so hard to provide the students with a view of the medical world. Sometimes we have to undo bad experiences they have had. Sometimes we’re their first experience with a medical professional.”
Ms. Pelligrini said she regularly makes referral calls for eye glasses, dental work, mental health appointments, post-childbirth resources and more.
“This job is a reality check,” Ms. Pelligrini said. “To watch the students and be aware of what their lives are like—it changes you. It’s very sobering. But we still manage to laugh every day! We have an amazing staff here at Nottingham. They’re all wonderful, smart people who are quick to respond when I bring them an issue. It’s a great place to be.”
Thank you, Ms. Pelligrini, for all you do!