School Nurse Spotlight

Jill Gasperini

FUN FACTS

Hometown: Jill is from the
Pacific Northwest. She grew up
in Tacoma, Washington under
the shadow of Mount Rainier

Favorite Desert: Jill loves
anything with chocolate!

Self Care: Jill loves Yoga and
believes that self care is essential
to a happy and healthy life

Hobbies: Jill sings in her
community chorus and recently
sang at Carnegie Hall

ABOUT

Jill Gasperini is the School Nurse Leader in
Lexington, MA and oversees the health services
program for the school district. Jill evaluates the
school nurses' practice, is a representative for
school administrators and community
stakeholders, supports policy development and
implementation, and is responsible for
recruiting, hiring, and staffing school nurses. Jill
ensures school nurses have the learning
opportunities to keep up with the skills required
for the position. Jill strongly believes school
nurses need support in order to do their job;
her role as Nurse Leader is to provide them
with the support they need to do their jobs well.

BIO

Jill has a Master's degree from the University of
Washington in Nursing Administration. She has
been working as the Nurse Leader in the
Lexington Schools for thirteen years. Jill formerly
worked in hospital settings and was attracted to
school nursing for the ability to work without
sacrificing the time she wanted to spend with her
family. She soon found the scope of school nursing
practice extensive and challenging. Integrating
health care in the academic setting demanded a
keen desire to fulfill an important mission:
"Children must be healthy to learn and learn to be
healthy." It became clear there was no better
professional aspiration for her than to take care of
children and families, to teach them about their
bodies, medications, and the importance of
staying healthy.

1. WHY DID YOU BECOME A SCHOOL NURSE?

I worked in hospitals for most of my career and then came into school nursing later. I
live in Lexington and thought that by becoming a school nurse it'd allow me to be more
involved in the schools and the community, while at the same time having a schedule
that would be similar to my children. It was important for me to work but I also wanted
to balance the needs of my family. Once I started working in school nursing I fell in love
with it! As a Nurse Leader I encourage nursing students to have their clinical
experiences in the offices because it’s an unknown nursing specialty. They can see the
work and then that results in a higher interest in pursuing it as a career. Helping
children to be safe and working with families is such a tremendously important way to
serve.

2. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE?

One of the challenges is finding experienced school nurses to do the work. When we
have an opening, we see many applicants but not all of them understand the
importance of having a school nurse license. That second license is required in order to
practice school nursing. Many nurses don’t even know they need to have the school
nurse license in order to practice in schools. Then there's the sheer volume and scope
of the work school nurses need to do. The need is huge as 25% of children have some
sort of medical issue, so there is plenty to do! In addition, there are the daily demands
of children coming to school ill or children not yet diagnosed with a health problem
that the school nurse is helping to manage and support. The school nurse will help a
family understand that a child needs more support. The school nurses also must
integrate public health nursing since we are viewed as public health providers for the
community. We are involved in flu clinics and making sure that children are immunized
in accordance with state requirements. Making sure enough school nurses are available
to get the work done is a challenge for me on a daily basis because the needs change
daily.

3. WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK MEANINGFUL?

Anytime the opportunity presents itself to make a difference in the lives of children
and their families is meaningful work. I take great pride seeing Lexington children
being safe and well cared for during the day by a strong school nursing staff. Lexington
school nurses are incredibly smart and their clinical expertise is excellent. The children
that come to the school nurse are getting a very high level of nursing care. I take a
great sense of pride in the work we are doing in Lexington.

4. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEW SCHOOL NURSE?

They should try to find a work situation where mentoring is offered. Developing skills
and confidence comes from other school nurses who are available to help them learn
and grow. School nurses are often isolated, everybody else in the building doesn’t do
what they do. Lexington believes very strongly in mentoring as a support to the school
nurse. New school nurses should also join the professional organization (MA school
nurse organization-MSNO). MSNO offers lots of learning opportunities to become
connected to other school nurses not only through professional events, newsletters,
and social media, but also through the School Nurse Network. Everyday there is
messaging where school nurses are asking questions and trying to get advice on
problems.

5. HOW DO YOU WORK WITH OTHER SCHOOL PROFESSIONALS
TO ADDRESS INDIVIDUAL STUDENT AND OVERALL COMMUNITY
HEALTH?

Collaboration with other professionals is extremely important as everyone brings a
different and important perspective. Student health needs can be complex especially in
the area of mental health as it involves families. Having excellent support between
social workers and counselors not only in the school system but in the community is
important to ensure everyone's needs are being met. Lexington school nurses belong
on a myriad of task forces and teams that help support these needs. There is a school
nurse on the district wide child protection task force, a nurse on the district wide crisis
management task force, and a nurse on the professional learning task force. School
nurses have important data that we can share because all of our work is captured
electronically and we can easily collate data around health and are experienced in
moving the community forward in health matters. It’s important to share leadership
and school nurses have the leadership capability to represent nursing on the district
wide task forces. The school nurses meet on a monthly basis and report on what’s going
on and we bring in experts to guide our practice. There is still more work to be done
and more ways school nurses should be at the table and involved, but that takes time.
We have always had a supportive superintendent which has made a huge difference in
Lexington. Paul Ash, former Superintendent of Lexington Public Schools once said to
me “I believe school nurses are the heart of the school." What a tremendous
acknowledgement from the superintendent! A Nurse Leader must find support coming
from the top. I just loved it when Dr. Ash expressed his support, because school nurses
are the heart of the school!

"I am proud of Lexington school nurses and the wonderful work they are doing.
They are so smart and leaders in and of themselves and do such tremendous
work!"