Originally printed Aug. 29, 2011
Her work in caring for students individually and her efforts in implementing health strategies at Hogansville and Hollis Hand elementary schools have earned Cindi Walston the honor of being named the Georgia School Nurse of the Year.
She was surprised by the honor at the Georgia Association of School Nurses in Peachtree City in late July. Colleagues had earlier selected Walton for county-wide school nurse of the year.
“What a shock,” said Walston, who was presented the award by Jayne Pauley, coordinator of health services for Troup County schools. “I learn so much from the other nurses at the other schools. If I’m the nurse of the year, then I am because of them.”
Walston splits her time between Hogansville and Hollis Hand elementary schools, and she said when she was honored as district-wide nurse of the year that school nurses’ duties are vastly different than mending scrapes with Band-aids and administering Tylenol.
Like the other nurses in the county school system, Walston checks blood sugar and insulin levels for students with diabetes; monitors asthma and sickle cell anemia; cares for students with cystic fibrosis and spina bifida; and treats allergic reactions.
On days she can’t be at one school, other school employees as well as teachers have been trained in the use of asthma inhalers, medications and EpiPens for allergic reactions. Walston even performs catheterizations and tube feedings almost daily.
Troup County’s school nurses also track cases of influenza as well as staph and MRSA. Each school has a team of first responders, to whom the nurses teach CPR, AED/Code Valentine and first aid. The nurses perform lice checks; oversee the school’s flu vaccine clinics along with the Troup County Health Department; guide teachers on how to administer medication on field trips; hold dental, vision/hearing and scoliosis screenings; and teach puberty classes.
Pauley said Walston has instituted new programs in her schools since she started six years ago, including a medical alert flagging system so each teacher can take responsibility for the students in his or her classroom who might have a chronic illness.
“This has increased awareness of students with special health-care needs which, in turn, improves the assessment and care provided at school,” Pauley said.
Pauley said Walston also takes advantage of professional learning opportunities related to the care of specific students and the “ever-changing information about various disease processes.”
“Cindi phoned me earlier this year to ask if she could attend a diabetes update in Atlanta since she has a student with diabetes in her school,” Pauley said.
In a nomination letter, Hogansville Elementary principal Bret Bryant said Walston is not only a quick responder when a student or staff member needs medical attention, but she is also forward-thinking.
“For each field trip, she makes sure that the teachers are prepared with the first aid kit and any medications for students,” Bryant said. She also assists the school’s First Responder Team by making sure that medical information is up-to-date and placed in the emergency bag, and that all first aid kits throughout the building are well-stocked.”
Walston became a registered nurse in 1991 after earning her associate of arts degree at LaGrange College. She worked as a registered nurse at West Georgia Health System briefly before her husband was transferred in 1991 to Hawaii, where she was a short-stay and recovery nurse.
She was a stay-at-home mom for their four children before returning to the nursing field as a school nurse six years ago.
“I knew I loved kids and that this is what I wanted to do,” she said. “Even though it’s a challenge, I love what I do. I learn something new every day.”
-By Natalie Shelton, Associate Editor, LaGrange Daily News (Originally entitled, Local woman named State School Nurse of the Year, this is reprinted by permission of the LaGrange Daily News)