Health Education

DATE: Thursday, April 20, 2017

HCC nursing students get on-the-job training in Westhampton schools.

Lindsey Sojkowski, a school nurse at Hampshire Regional, explains the different visits from students to Brittney Kane, a first year nursing student at HCC.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published April 18 on Gazettenet under the headline: "Learning the medical ropes."

Courtesy of the Daily Hampshire Gazette

WESTHAMPTON — It's one thing to learn about bloody noses and sore throats in a textbook or classroom. It's quite another dealing with these common ailments while on the job as a school nurse.

That's exactly why Lyudmila Burunova, a first-year nursing student at Holyoke Community College, is spending some of her Fridays this spring in a mini-training at Westhampton Elementary School in the shadow of school nurse Amy Avakian.

One recent Friday started out simply enough. Burunova gave an ice pack to one student in pain and ibuprofen to another. Then, around 9:30 a.m., a student with a bloody nose ventured into the Avakian's office, wiping blood on his sleeve. Pressure was put on the nose to stop the bleeding as well as an ice pack. The student's shirt was changed. Spare clothing donated to the school is kept in the nurse's office just for cases like this one.

A short time later second-grader Chris Hanks, 7, wandered into the office.

"My neck is bothering me," he said. "Every day it gets worse and worse ... It started yesterday."

With Burunova by her side, Avakian asked the boy to show her where it hurt and Hanks put his hands on his throat. As kids at a young age are still learning the names of body parts, Avakian asks them to touch were they feel uncomfortable to be clear.

"Is it inside your throat?" she asked. Hanks nodded yes.

Avakian shined a flashlight to look at Hanks's tonsils, telling Burunova what to look out for. There was some redness, which could be viral or caused by allergies, Avakian said.

"Do you think a cough drop will help?" she asked. Hanks said yes and went back to class.

This collaboration between HCC and Hampshire Regional School District began in February, both as a way to give young students exploring the field of nursing - with an emphasis on school nursing - and to enable the nurses in the district to share their expertise with the next generation. Each student comes to the school one day per week for about a month.

Mary Phelan, the health education coordinator for the district, said they are looking to expand the program, allowing students to be on site for more days.

As part of the clinical training, some 15 HCC nursing students are spending time with nurses at Westhampton Elementary, William E. Norris School, Hampshire Regional High School and the New Hingham Regional Elementary. Nursing students are required to complete various clinical trainings to get hands-on experience. HCC offers two-year associate of science in nursing program.

Some students, like Burunova, want to move on to a four-year university. Burunova said she is thinking of furthering her nursing education at Elms College in Chicopee, adding that the nursing field has many different job opportunities and is particularly interested in the cardiology field.

At Westhampton Elementary, Avakian said recess can bring kids to the nurse's office for scraped knees and cuts as well as more serious playground injuries such as concussions and fractures.

Second-grader Trenton Clark, 8, had a rough week last week - a sprained left wrist from a fall and a fractured finger tip on his right hand from catching a baseball. Yet there he was last Friday with an important question for Avakian: "Can I play soccer?"

Avakian checked his wrist and fracture. She told him he should take a break for the day.

"Every day is different," Avakian said. "It's fun to work with kids and watch them grow."

At Hampshire Regional High School, nurse Cyndy Domina said about 40 percent of their visits are for mental health. The school nurse are trained in both mental and physical health. This past month, the school nurses received grief training to help students cope with the loss of a loved one.

While students come in and out all day, Domina's office gets busy around lunchtime with students that need to take medication. One student, who is diabetic, checks his blood sugar levels everyday.

Nurse Lindsey Sojkowski recorded the blood sugar levels of a student as HCC nursing student Brittney Kane looked over her shoulder.

"His blood sugar was great," Sojkowski, explaining the numbers to Kane.

Kane, who aspires to be a nurse practitioner, asked Domina how to identify a student who is receiving a medication. While many students don't carry a student ID card, they can be identified by their driver's license or date of birth.

Domina said the role of school nurses is to support student's medical and mental health while also allowing them to receive their education.

Before spending almost a decade as a school nurse, Domina worked for a number of years at Holyoke Medical Center. At the school, she said, "This is more exciting."

In this job, she gets to build relationships with students, she said. "You see them grow up."

PHOTO by Carol Lollis: Lindsey Sojkowski, a school nurse at Hampshire Regional, explains the different visits from students to Brittney Kane, a first year nursing student at HCC.