Jean Kennedy Interview
1. Name and Title as you would like it presented:
Hi, my name is Jean Kennedy, R.N., BSN
2. School name where you work?
I work at ASU Prep South K-12 Charter school
3. How long have you been a school nurse?
I have been a school nurse for 25 of my 42 year career.
4. Nurses have a lot of options when deciding where to work. How did you choose to work for a local school and what has kept you in school nursing so many years?
I began my career as a school nurse when we moved to Phoenix in 1997. Prior to that, I worked in a children’s hospital, but moving to Phoenix brought so many changes to our lives, I wanted to have a schedule more similar to my kids who were 6, 8 & 11 at that time. Traffic horror stories also helped me to decide to stay close to home. When I stopped in a nearby high school to inquire about a job, the principal told me “if you want the job, your contract started yesterday”! It was quite a learning curve in the beginning- my own children had never lied to me & loved to go to school. You can imagine the shock I had when I finally figured out that the high school students who frequent the nurse’s office don't usually hold these same values! My orientation consisted of the principal’s secretary handing me my office keys & a radio, saying “not much to it, tampons & bandaids”. I thought “not on my watch!”. School nursing has been the most amazing career of my life. I have always loved that everyday is different, the energy put into finding & providing resources for students with everything they have ever wanted to those who are homeless. I have loved watching the students grow through the years, so many that have come back to visit, the many things I was able to teach them from nutrition to freedom from drug use to selfcare. I have always dreaded the immunization exclusion day, as parents seem to be able to come up with more excuses than students! As depression, stress and anxiety began to be more prevalent in the teen world around the 2009 -2014 era, before we really understood what was happening to these teens & no one wanted to admit their child was struggling or possibly needed daily medications &/or therapy, behaviors were difficult to care for. Evidence- based information helped us open a whole new world of dealing with social & emotional anxiety, trauma and panic attacks, which only got worse with the birth of the cell phone. Another role as a school nurse has been to be the liaison for my students, to educate families & teachers to understand diabetes, disease anxiety, seizures, side effects of medications can hurt learning, concussion accommodations or why drug use in class occurs, vaping in the restroom & videotaping themselves-then wondering how they got caught? Explaining to some parents why cramps do not qualify as a chronic illness or to teachers, why anxiety does.
5. What motivates you to make a difference for your students and community?
I can’t tell you how much I have come to love school nursing and the importance the role plays in the educational system. A child who is tired or hungry or hurting or has issues at home that no one “seems” to care about, is a student who will not be able to learn. I feel every student can be successful when given the opportunity to achieve- he/she may need to have it explained a little differently or more “hands on” type of education to grasp the idea, but they all want to learn & be successful. I find it very necessary that each student connect with at least one adult at their school-whether it’s a teacher, their counselor, the principal, a security guard or the nurse. Kids all need at least one person in their court that they can trust, is there for them and willing to share a smile when that student is down. It can be the difference between making it & sometimes not! I would not change a single day if I had it to do all over again! And I so hope my students, as well as staff, know that I am always here for them. I thank them for always making me feel needed in return.
6. What is one thing you’d like the community to know about school nurses?
I would like my community to know that school nurses play a valuable role in their child’s life. There are those few students who never learn where the health office is located, but for the safety and health of our communities, the school nurse makes a great impact for their classmates that are struggling, whether it be emotionally or physically. Nursing covers a broad spectrum in education, supporting students and families, collaborating with teachers and counselors. Nurses support the entire child so they are ready to come to school to learn. And please, don’t even get me started on the workload the pandemic added at school as well as the community