By Tara Fort

As healthcare professionals, the nurses at Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) have a greater role than what many of us experienced growing up and visiting the nurse’s office hoping for a day pass to go home. Today, school nurses strive to address the physical, mental, emotional and social health needs of each student. From Monica Pardo in her first year as nurse at Lincoln School, to Carolyn Ernst in her 14th year with Prescott High School, school nurses are at the ready for whatever comes their way—from simple sore throats to medical emergencies.

While it is not unusual for nurses to still see students who seek any excuse to get out of class, Ernst says, “Nurses today are tuned in to why students try to get out of class.  Do they need a break from a long day, or is there an underlying issue?”  Shelly Bideau, in her second year as the nurse at Taylor Hicks says, “Most students have an intention when they visit me.  They might need an extra hug, or breakfast because they didn’t get one at home.”  Wendy Farnsworth is in her fourth year as nurse at Abia Judd and says, “We have students who come in for their daily visit with a headache or stomachache. As soon as they start talking, they sure seem to have a lot of energy for being sick! I have some students tell me they broke their right foot, as they come hopping into the office on the same foot that is ‘broken’! We prescribe ankle rest and ice so they can get out the door on the opposite foot they came in on!”

Far from topical injuries and the average ailment, the PUSD nurses train staff on how to use an Epi pen, or what happens during an asthma attack if a teacher needs to administer an inhaler.  They also receive ongoing training themselves including one segment called Stop the Bleed which is, as Pardo says, “…a great course that will make an impact on someone’s life.” Today, nurses serve as eyes and ears of the student population by connecting with the community to offer resources during a crisis or family hardship. Brenda Phillips, in her first year as nurse at Mile High Middle School says, “I coordinate with the school counselor often to make sure we address all needs of our students.” Mai Nguyen who has been at Granite Mountain School for five years concurs, “The school nurse’s role is to provide health care through assessment, intervention and follow-up. We do our best to educate our students by empowering them to feel confident so they can take care of themselves.”

Supporting school nurses requires effort from the District, but the nurses feel that the effort is provided with ease and understanding. Ernst states, “PUSD has made a commitment to provide high level nursing care to our students who have intense medical and mental health needs, and still want to be in school and do their best.” Adds Farnsworth, “We are always pushing for what is best for our kids. We want to maintain a safe learning environment.” A supportive district and collaborative teamwork rings through for this group of health care providers.  Phillips adds, “The teamwork between PUSD nurses is amazing.  I know we can all count on each other.”

For more information about Prescott Unified School District and the amazing nurses who serve the schools visit