Behind the Scenes with a School Nurse
Medical professional. Illness detective. School mom. Those are just a few of the many roles filled by Queensbury Middle School nurse Lisa Tubbs.
Tubbs rejoined the middle school team four years ago, after first spending six years working for Queensbury schools in the early 2000s. Each school day she sees on average 70 to 80 students, though sometimes it may be “upward of 100 kids.” During a rare, quiet moment in her office, she reflected on how nursing - particularly school nursing - has changed since she entered the field nearly three decades ago.
“I have students who have to come in first thing in the morning to get their medication here. I have students whose medication has to be delivered by a pharmacy. There are probably five kids every day who tell me right off the bus, ‘I don’t feel good.’ For many children, you step into the role of the parent,” she said.
She has found that students today seem to experience more anxiety than previous generations.
“A lot of anxiety issues manifest as physical ailments such as stomachaches and headaches. You have to weed through what is really a physical issue versus a social or mental issue. Are they feeling sick because they’ve got a test or because something happened in the morning at home? Early adolescence is a time where there are so many issues,” she observed.
Cozy isn’t a word usually associated with medical spaces, but Tubbs fills her office with soft music and soothing lights that conjure up images of a day spa. These tiny details are part of what she considers a holistic approach to student wellness. She covers all of the standard nursing expectations - checking for ear infections, sore throats and possible injuries for example - but she also believes in looking beyond the body.
“We have the mind and spirit that also contribute to our feeling of wellbeing. That’s part of being healthy and well, knowing that all of those components are taken care of,” she said.
“I think the majority of what I do is as much taking care of their emotional needs as it is taking care of their physical needs. I had a student say to me the other day, ‘Mrs. Tubbs, you’re my school mom.”
Whether students perceive her as a “school mom” or a provider of expert medical advice, Tubbs likes having many opportunities to speak with students about making healthier choices.
“This is an age where they’re pushing the limit. The risky behaviors really start in this age level,” she said.
One of the potential behaviors causing her concern is the use of electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping.
“Students don’t view vaping the way they view smoking. They view it as no big deal,” she said. “But it really stands to reason that vaping is not healthy. They’re inhaling chemicals into their lungs while their lung tissue is still developing and growing. And at that age, the brain is still developing. When you add those substances, it can have long-term health consequences that we don’t even know about yet.”
Tubbs enjoys her work as a school nurse, treating and advising students while they transition from childhood in sixth grade to young adulthood by eighth grade. For her, being a part of that journey creates a sense of personal investment in their lives and future success.
“I think that’s the best thing about it. You get to hopefully see them mature and grow, and you really feel like you helped them make good choices,” she said. “Anyone that’s in this profession is not here for a paycheck. You’re here for the students and to feel like you make a difference.”