A Day in the Life of a Program NursePosted April 26, 2022
Sue Schongar- Early Childhood Services Program Nurse
12 years with CEO
Sue arrives at the Lansingburgh Family Resource Center (LFRC) and starts her day. Sue commutes from Spiegletown, but grew up in Lansingburgh, so she knows this area well. Her first tasks of the day include checking her email and nurse’s bin for any paperwork that might have come in overnight. Her office at the LFRC is on the top level of the building and open to the hallway and stairs below, which gives her a good vantage point on people coming and going.
In addition to the LFRC, Sue splits her time between the Hoosick Falls Family Resource Center and School 2 and School 12 within the Troy School District. Monday, Tuesday, and every other Friday Sue is at Lansingburgh. Wednesday and every other Friday she’s at Hoosick Falls, and Thursday she splits her time between School 2 and School 12 in Troy.
Regardless of where she is, Sue checks in with the Center Manager first thing to see if anything has come up, and then begins planning the day ahead. Every day is different, but many activities and processes are consistent from week to week.
Children start arriving around 8am and Sue helps to greet the families as they arrive. She checks in with the teachers and joins the Family Advocates at the front door. This gives her an opportunity to see if there are any health issues with individual children, or question families might have.
The Health Team keeps track of physicals that are due and the paperwork needed if a child is out sick, so this is a chance to easily communicate with families about these health needs and issues. It’s also a great opportunity to see the kids coming in and say hello. Sue loves working with the children and has a great relationship with them. She has five grandkids of her own and a wonderful quiet way with the children.
Once everyone is settled into their classrooms, Sue heads back to her office. She uses this time to do administrative work, answering emails for a little bit before her Health Team meeting.
CEO’s Health Team consists of Ashley Pulsoni, the Health Manager/RN; Sue Schongar, Program Nurse; Cassandra Franz, Program Nurse; Lori Tantakis, Assistant Director of Center Operations; and Sara Loux, Data Specialist. The Health Team has a longer meeting once a week, but does quicker check-ins via email daily. The Health Team is spread out across CEO’s locations throughout Rensselaer County on any given day. Their check-ins, whether through email or the weekly meeting, allow each member to know where everyone else is, to make sure there is adequate coverage, to discuss new forms coming in, and to plan as a group.
Today the Health Team meeting focused on two upcoming events: The Health Fair at the Lansingburgh Family Resource Center, and the Seal-A-Smile visits scheduled for next week. After two years of COVID impacts, some activities are beginning to resume, and everyone is excited!
The Health Fair at the LFRC is to be hosted in May. Ashley’s been reaching out to a lot of health and safety based vendors like the Lansingburgh Fire Department, medical & dental partners, health insurance providers, and more. The CEO Health Team will have their own table, and CEO families will be invited to join and learn about summer safety, dental health and safety, sun safety, and more. After such a long break, everyone agrees it is nice to have a community event on the calendar.
The Seal-A-Smile staff is coming next week to all of CEO’s centers. This partnership has been in existence for quite a while, but with COVID impacts, it has been a few years since they’ve been able to visit CEO’s centers. The Seal-A-Smile staff do free fluoride treatments, and tooth checks for all of CEO’s kids. They can offer a dental referral if there are any concerns so the children are able to go to a dentist. They bring a real dental chair and lighting equipment and set it up in the CEO centers. The dental hygienists are great with even the youngest kids, and try to make it a good experience with a free toothbrush, toothpaste and stickers.
The Health Team helps coordinate the schedule and bring the kids in to have their exams with the dental hygienists. It is a great program, and if transportation is an issue for the family, it at least gets them started and then they have the referral to a dental office if there is an issue.
A Head Start teacher calls up to Sue to say a child is not feeling well. Sue calls the parent to see if there was anything unusual that morning that the team should know about. “We always call the parent, just to know what the history is. Maybe the child didn’t sleep well, or they had a rough morning and that might be informing how they are feeling,” says Sue.
The Health Team follows the program’s exclusion policy to determine if a child needs to be sent, home and they do an exclusionary note. The exclusionary note includes the name and date, and reason for exclusion (i.e., a fever with a cough, or an earache). Some exclusionary notes require a doctor’s note for the child before they are readmitted to programming. Some things do not require a doctor’s note, and Sue will ask the parent/guardian for a 24-hour observation. “We don’t want to send children home unless it’s necessary, but we are in conversation with the parents to make sure everyone is healthy and safe.”
The child ends up getting picked up by the parent and brought home.
Sue does a little work on records and logs. Every child in CEO’s Early Childhood Services program has to have an updated physical and immunization records. Every month Sara sends a list of all children that have physicals due, so the Health Team follows up with everyone and lets them know what date their physical is due. Sometimes the doctor faxes the record over to CEO, or a parent brings it in, and then everything goes into the Early Childhood database, COPA. With 90 or so kids in LFRC alone, every month there are at least a few to review and follow up with the families.
She also checks in on the daily health logs and medication logs. For the daily health log, every child is observed when they enter the classroom, and a note is made on how they feel, etc. Any doctor’s notes, exclusion notes, etc. are attached at the end of the month to the log.
Medication logs are kept for any child that has medication that needs to be dispensed during the school day. Those medications have to be administered by nurses or MAT (Medication Administration Trained) staff. This is a help, since Health Team staff cannot always be at every center. The medication logs are double-checked every six months.
“It’s not very glamourous, but it’s important, and we’re busy and we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it,” says Sue.
Sue takes her lunch. “Once everything is kind of quiet when the kids are eating their lunch or doing quieter activities after lunch feels like the best time.”
Sue works on case notes and organizing some COVID-exclusionary notices. The past two years have been quite busy for the Health Team with the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are all feeling like they can finally take a breath and settle back into some of their old procedures.
“It was interesting being a Program Nurse during COVID. Many of our meetings became Zoom meetings. We didn’t have parents dropping off the kids in the building, so we would call parents to still be able to have face-to-face meetings. Not having that access to families was harder.”
Zoom meetings for the Health Team have continued now though, since everyone is spread out during any given day. There were changes to policies and paperwork too.
“Exclusion policy had a separate COVID policy that was more specific to symptoms typical of COVID, the quarantine periods for children were 10 days. Case notes and exclusion policies were a huge help when keeping track of COVID cases and quarantine periods.
We required either a doctor’s note or negative COVID test, but a lot of the doctors just did the test and the Health Team would monitor what the results were. It was a smooth process really, there was a lot but we just kept track of everything and followed up with the families.
We had a plan, I was very confident with the process, and everyone followed it very well,” says Sue.
Programming is over for the day, so parents are picking up their kids.
“Sometimes the families have questions during pickup, so it’s good to be available for them, “says Sue.
Once all the kids are gone, Sue has a chance to print any physicals or paperwork, finish case notes, and answer emails. She talks with the Center Managers or Family Advocates if she will be in a different center the next day, to make sure they have what they need before heading out at 3pm.
What is your favorite part of working for CEO?
“Taking care of the kids. It is a wonderful program, and so important for a lot of these kids that they have opportunities, like to get to the dentist, for example, and make sure that there is an additional resource for all the children. Making a difference for them and their families is important to me. The parents are so busy that sometimes they forget that the physical is due, so we try to give them plenty of time. Most of the parents are great about it, we are always there as support and help for the whole family.
I love working with the staff, the teachers, and the Center Managers. It’s a good team. Not every day is perfect, but we work together and communicate so it all works out.”