The School Nurse

She was the caretaker, the warden, the sweet woman who held all of the cards. She could bandage you up when you took a nasty spill on the playground, or, more importantly, grant you a reprieve for the day. She was the school nurse, entrusted with the health of the children and given the unenviable task of deciding who was really sick and who was faking. Let’s take a loving look back at this essential caregiver from our childhood.

Whether you were really sick or not, you looked upon this person to plead your case for you, an advocate that your parents couldn’t easily brush off. She was a trained medical professional, for goodness sakes, and if she thought you should go home, you were going home. Of course, it could take a heck of a dramatical performance to convince this person whose ears had heard every excuse in the book.

Surprisingly with all of her medical knowledge, all of her years of training, the school nurse relied on one particular medical instrument above all others, her trusty thermometer. No fever meant you were probably being sent back to class, although you might still be able to buy a little time on one of the cots before returning. But a fever? That was a one-way ticket home. Of course, if you didn’t actually have a fever, your mind worked harder than a scientist working on the Manhattan project to try and get that mercury to rise. You eyed every generator of heat in the office and waited for your opportunity. If she would just leave the room for a moment, you could make your move. Maybe the hot tap water could help you, or the heater, or maybe you could create just enough friction by rubbing the glass instrument with as much vigor as a stranded camper trying to start a fire with two sticks. You had to exercise caution though; a reading of 112 degrees was going to look mighty suspicious for a child still sitting upright. Besides, you wanted her to call your parents, not the morgue.

If you couldn’t quite pull off a fever, and if you hadn’t lost a limb, there was another surefire way to get the nurse to take pity on you – a well-timed, unassisted vomit. Funny thing, once you have lost your lunch in a classroom or hallways, the school was quick to determine that they no longer wanted you present. Much harder to fake, of course, but when it happened, your chances of going home were golden.

And if all went well with your thespian skills, or if you actually really were sick, there was no finer moment than when the nurse, her options exhausted, picked up the phone and called a parent to come pick you up. You could look your mom square in the eye and say, “I tried to stick it out but the nurse said I should go home”. After all, she’s the professional.

If you utilized a few tricks of the trade to get the nurse to send you home from school, or, if you simply have fond (or not-so-fond) memories of one of the nurses you crossed paths with during your educational years, share your stories in our comments section, as we tip our hat to all of the collective school nurses from our youth.

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One Response to “The School Nurse”

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  1. Lynn says:

    There’s also the factor of how nice or easy to trick your school nurse is. Some of mine were nice enough to believe me when I claimed a small twinge was worse than it was so I could go home early. But my middle school nurse was a piece of work! In the beginning the tricks worked, but at some point she, other teachers and my mother caught on and started using tricks to get THEIR way: “Well, if you’re too sick to stay in school you’re too sick to go out and have fun this weekend! I think that is a fine rule.” Because obviously nobody ever heard of instant painkillers or menstrual cramps that went away after a few hours.

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