School Nurses On the Front Line of Health, Safety

students learn cpr
Seventh grade students at Tonaquint Intermediate School became CPR certified in November 2010. | Photo by Lois Dainack

ST. GEORGE – A group of 7th grade students at Tonaquint Intermediate School in St. George are American Heart CPR certified after completing a CPR class taught by Lois Dainack, a registered nurse with the Washington County School District.

“They did very well and were very excited (to take the class),” said Dainack, who trained the students in November. “They expressed feelings that they may be able to help save someone’s life because of this training. I was very pleased to do this for them.”

The American Heart Association recently issued a recommendation that middle and high school students be required to learn CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and how to use an automatic external defibrillator or AED. According to the association, an individual’s chance of survival following a heart attack can double or triple if CPR is given right away.

Teaching students and district employees CPR skills is timely in the wake of last year’s lightning strike that nearly killed two Snow Canyon High School students.

“We had a good outcome and our CPR skills were an important part of that good outcome,” said LuAnne Forrest, the district’s director of Student Services and its Emergency Services Director.

“We learned pretty dramatically from that incident that seconds count. Since then we have provided multiple CPR masks with one way valves at all schools,” Forrest said. “Our nurses are able to provide CPR training at any school campus, and we are beginning a program in which a nurse can certify and supervise a CPR trainer at a school site. This means a lot more people will be able to have access to CPR training and keeping that certification current. It’s vital for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to health and safety issues.”

Teams from each school are also being trained in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) courses that provide a consistent nationwide template for government, private sector and nongovernmental organizations to use as they work together in an emergency.

“We have a great collaboration with our local first responders. They know we are very serious about safety and I think they appreciate that,” said Forrest. “We are constantly working toward our safety goals. It takes all of us for any of us to be safe.”

School nurses play a vital role in promoting optimal health for students, families and district employees, said Debra Hengst, a registered nurse and the district’s school nurse team leader.

“Everything we do revolves around training and getting everyone ready to cope during an emergency,” says Hengst, who, like the other district nurses, is responsible for students and staff at six or seven schools in the county.

Registered nurse Penny Norman, whose base office is at Fossil Ridge Intermediate, echoed that thought saying, “Our main job is to educate others to save lives.”

Nurses must communicate with parents, students, district staff, the health department and physicians on a wide array of health-related issues on a daily basis. Yearly individualized health care plans also must be completed, signed by parents, and placed on file for students who require specific care, she noted.

At some schools in the district there are 30 or more students with special medical needs such as asthma, diabetes, allergies, disabilities, organ transplants, chemotherapy, and other health-related issues that require medication and individualized attention.

School nurses are also responsible for health care planning, emergency care training, mediation administration, health and wellness education, staff wellness, health screenings and providing education on communicable diseases, immunizations and lice infestations.

Each nurse employed by the district maintains the confidentiality required by the law and works hard to support the teachers, staff, students and family of those who are dealing with health problems, said Dainack. There are only eight registered nurses on the district’s staff and each one is responsible for more than 3,000 students, along with teaching and training other district employees on a variety of health topics.  This year there are 26, 200 students attending Washington County schools, while just over a year ago there were 24,107 students enrolled.

“We have to prioritize, multi-task and move from our home base school to other schools as the needs arise,” Dainack said. “I love my job and often say it is the best job I have ever had in my 25 years as a nurse. It’s a different kind of nursing, but I love it.”

To learn more about the Washington County School District and health services provided by school nurses, visit the district online at:

To read more about the American Heart Association’s science advisory/recommendation on CPR training in secondary schools, visit the AHA journal “Circulation” online at:

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.