When Courtney M. Jones, RN, BSN, began her nursing career in labor and delivery, she found herself drawn to the teenage mothers. "I would always take those patients," she says. "I felt like I could really connect with them, and talk to them easily." So when she moved to school nursing, she knew a high school was the place for her.
Jones, Senior Community Health Nurse, was the school nurse at Dunbar High School from 2007 until 2014. She is an employee of Children's National Hospital who is placed in a school to work as a nurse by Children's School Services, as part of Children’s long-standing tradition of collaborating with public and private entities to proactively address the health needs of local families.
Dunbar is an inner-city public high school, and the predominantly African-American student body has a fair share of students from impoverished or troubled homes.
"A lot of these students miss out on things at home that other people take for granted, or they don’t have someone they can talk to when they have problems or need information," Jones says.
With the help of two colleagues during her time at Dunbar High School, Jones started "The Ladies of Dunbar," a group to offer support and mentoring to the female students at Dunbar High School. "We really saw a need to offer them formal guidance," Jones says.
To join the group, the teens had to have – and keep – good grades. Meeting a couple of times a week after school, the girls learned valuable life skills, like how to dress appropriately for a job interview, and how to converse and present themselves in public. Jones and her colleagues also help the girls prepare for college, taught them place settings before treating them to a meal at a nice restaurant, gave health lessons and more.
Creating this mentoring group was not the only way Jones excelled in her job. While managing her duties as a school nurse – ranging from basic first aid to health emergencies, screenings and health education – Jones trained and mentored newly-hired school nurses in her ward. She also took on the role of a "super user" to learn how to use an electronic health records system and train her colleagues on it.
"We are proud to call Nurse Jones one of our unsung heroes," a Children’s School Services Nurse Manager said. "Her devotion to these students and their group and passion for the field of nursing has definitely changed the lives of these young women and their community that they serve. Nurse Jones is a great asset to Children's School Services and to our nursing profession as a whole."
Though Jones has moved on to a new area high school, she still stays in touch with the "Ladies" she mentored during her time at Dunbar. Most of the girls went on to college, and they usually visit Dunbar when they come back to the area, she says.
"We fill so many roles as school nurses, and the Ladies of Dunbar was just a little piece," Jones says. "This was just something I wanted to do for the kids; I wasn't expecting any recognition for it. We’re here for the kids, and you get attached to them. It's very rewarding to give them advice and help them out."