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  Meet Roslyn Polk, MS, BSN, RN, School Nurse, Children’s School Services

Roslyn Polk, MS, BSN, RN, has no trouble keeping busy. As one of the Registered Nurses in Children’s School Services, School Health Nursing Program, Polk serves as the School Nurse at Janney Elementary School in Washington, DC. Her health suite is a hive of activity. Within the white walls papered with crayon-drawn pictures from grateful children, Polk manages a steady stream of students, parents, faculty, and paperwork all on her own. This is the multifaceted and autonomous nature of school nursing, and Polk navigates it with kind words and calm confidence.

It’s early May and Polk is working through the busiest part of her school year. In addition to providing clinical care for Janney’s 560 students, she’s working with administrators to make certain that students enrolling for the upcoming school year meet medical requirements, thus ensuring the school community maintains compliance with the District of Columbia Department of Health. Polk accomplishes all of this without compromising the care she provides to students. On this Tuesday she puts down her paperwork to triage a student complaining of a headache. “Have you had enough water today?” she asks the student. “Do you like math?”  Polk’s day is filled with unpredictability.

“Right now I’m performing health screenings, completing health forms, doing assessments of children who are returning, as well as newly-enrolled students,” said Polk. Passionate about the role preventive care plays in education, Polk knows that arming herself and the school administration with their students’ health information is the best way to prevent any emergency situations. “We want to keep the students well to reduce any incidence of lost academic time. My goal is to keep them in school,” said Polk.

As a self-described “healthcare advocate” for her students, Polk’s duties include treating students’ injuries, illnesses and medical conditions, educating students about nutrition in the newly-planted school garden, and working with parents to ensure students have access to appropriate healthcare outside of school. Polk notes that “it’s rewarding to know that the kids are being taken care of.” It’s Polk’s caring nature that brought her to the field of nursing 35 years ago. She started her career as a trauma nurse at MIEMSS Baltimore, advanced along a management track and became head nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and finally served as Administrative Director of Surgical Services at Georgetown University Hospital. Polk decided that she wanted to put her extensive clinical experience to use in a community setting and began a new chapter of her career as a school nurse with Children’s School Services.

Children’s School Services manages the school health nursing program under contract with the District of Columbia Department of Health. School nursing is a specialized practice of professional nursing that advances the well-being, academic success, and life-long achievement of students. Under contract to the Government of the District of Columbia, Polk serves as an extension of the Department of Health and works with the students, teachers, and parents to ensure that Janney Elementary School is a safe and healthy learning environment. “Parents want to know that their kids are safe when they walk through the doors. They’re mixing amongst the more than 500 other students and if they have a peanut allergy or something else that may put them at risk, the parents want to know that we have policies and procedures in place to manage their children if they need emergency care,” said Polk.

Polk notes that nursing is a natural extension of her character. “What I do with my job, at my church, in the community, on the street - it’s caring. With nursing you use clinical knowledge, education, communication and organization skills, life experiences, even ‘mother wit’ and you bring those all to bear in the job.” Polk enjoys her job as a school nurse because of all the lives she touches on a daily basis, “I enjoy that at the end of the day I’ve made a difference to our children.”

Click here to learn more about Children’s School Services School Health Nursing Program.

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