PPS is grateful for our school nurses
By Xavier Botana
I was thrilled this month when Talbot Community School teacher Cindy Soule was selected as Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. But I wasn’t surprised that a Portland Public Schools educator won such an honor – because we have so many exemplary staff members.
The People goal in our Portland Promise commits us to attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. Our staff members are dedicated and passionate about helping our students succeed. They deserve our gratitude. That’s why in the coming year, I’ll be featuring the voices of individual staff members telling why they do the work they do, why it’s important and what they find most rewarding.
This month, I’ll highlight the importance of school nurses – particularly during this pandemic – by introducing Lizzie Nalli. She’s a skilled and caring nurse in her second year serving students at Deering High School. Lizzie grew up in Cumberland, graduated from Greely High School and earned a nursing degree from Georgetown University and a master’s in public health from George Washington University. After working in Washington, D.C. and New York City, Lizzie and her husband returned to Maine about seven years ago to raise their children.
Why did you become a nurse?
I was one of those people who applied straight to nursing school from high school. I always felt I’d be a good fit. I liked science and those types of subjects in school and I really like people. I enjoy the diversity of what you can do with a nursing degree, working in different locations and specialties.
Your work has included many different types of nursing, including working in the ER. What drew you to school nursing?
I wanted to work in preventive health and health care promotion and I didn’t want to leave patient care. In a school, there’s a lot of room for health promotion and interacting with students.
What was a typical day for you at DHS before COVID-19?
I would see a fair number of kids each day who came to the office or when a teacher called me to a classroom. The complaints could range from an emergency – like a seizure – to a stomachache or a student needing help getting eyeglasses. Deering has a student-based health center and I work as a team with a health assistant, making sure students have vaccines and teaching them how not to be intimidated by the health care system.
How has your job changed with COVID?
With fewer kids in the building, we have a lot less traffic in the office. Now, it’s a lot of tracking kids out sick to see if they have COVID symptoms, making sure they’re getting tested and have notes from a doctor before coming back to school. I also do health screenings to make sure no one with COVID comes into the school and I make sure people are up to date with vaccines. Kids with non-acute needs email me or call me.
Why did you make videos for students before school started, demonstrating mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing?
I wanted to give a warm, enthusiastic welcome to kids coming back and also pass on information of what to expect. I also didn’t want students to think I hadn’t been thinking about them over the summer!
What keeps you motivated?
The people – the staff and the students – make Deering a really rewarding place to work. I also like knowing that I have a role in helping students come back to school and making sure it’s done in the safest possible way.