For Donna Robinson, known as Nurse Donna in North Elementary School in Holts Summit, every day brings diverse challenges.
The licensed practical nurse is responsible for health needs for the school's 420 students. That means dealing with much more than scrapes or bruises on the playground. Her job involves keeping up medical paperwork, developing action plans, administering medications, keeping up immunizations, holding flu clinics and attending to various other health-related issues for students, all while coordinating with their families and teachers.
"We just deal with whatever walks through our door," she said.
Often, she said, it's the parents, teachers, aides and cafeteria staff who are going to first notice changes in students' health, perhaps the onset of symptoms.
"So communication with parents, with staff is really a vital part of our job," she said.
At the end of the day, it's the bonds with the students and their families that she cherishes most.
"By far, the best part of the job is the relationships you're able to form with these kids. Not every day is a good day, but there truly is good in every day," she said.
She's been a nurse for 25 years and has been North Elementary's nurse for the past decade. That lasting friendship with the students and families is something you don't get with many other nursing positions, she said.
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Students are sometimes pleasantly surprised to come across her in public, and she'll hear them say things to their parents such as "Nurse Donna is actually here in Walmart!"
The most challenging part of the job is sometimes making decisions that, while not always popular with individual parents, are in the best interest of the whole school. That could mean requiring children to stay at home if they're sick or haven't been fever-free long enough.
However, she tries to adhere to the Golden Rule. A student who comes to see her at the end of the day doesn't know Robinson has already dealt with health concerns from dozens of other children.
"I treat every single kid who walks through here all day long like they are the first kid I treated in the morning when I was fresh and ready to start the day," she said.
Working amid the pandemic and the Jefferson City School District's COVID-19 plan might add to her job, but she said it hasn't fundamentally changed her role.
"I feel like the district has done a really nice job putting layers in place as far as wearing masks, putting dividers up where students are sitting," she said.
"It's a team effort and every single person in this building, from cafeteria staff to administration, they're incredible," she said. "And without each piece, the whole doesn't work like it's supposed to. I feel like I'm just one piece."
Robinson recently was nominated for the JC Schools "Difference Maker Award" by parent Jennifer Wilson, who has a son with a rare medical disorder.
Nurse Donna, she said, "has been right there alongside us during this journey.
"She is the whole package, from changing hearing aid batteries, to explaining seizure action plans to teachers, to making sure meds are given. All the while doing it with a smile and making sure my guy knows he is loved and he is safe," she wrote in nominating Robinson.