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Kathy Wallace, RN, BSN, NCSN, school nurse at Parkway Central Middle School in Chesterfield, Mo.

August 2013

Wallace was selected as a winner of St. Louis Magazine’s Excellence in Nursing Awards 2013.

Q. When did you decide to become a nurse and why?

A. In high school, I worked in the dietary department of a local hospital. I would go to the hospital after school each day to help deliver food to the patients. Getting to walk the hospital floor and visit with patients inspired me to choose a career path that would make a difference in patients’ lives. Watching the nurses and learning more about their role as care providers was really inspirational for me.

Q. When did you decide to transition from the hospital to a school setting?

A. I worked in a hospital for 16 years and had an incredible career. When a local school had an opening for a nurse, a friend of mine convinced me to give it a shot. I wasn't quite sure I was ready to leave the hospital, but I decided to interview at the school and find out what they had to offer. I have always gravitated towards working with children in neonatal and pediatric settings, and the more I began to explore the expanding role of the school nurse, the more I realized that the position would be a good fit. I haven't looked back since!

Q. What is the biggest difference between working in a hospital and working as a school nurse?

A. Being an independent practitioner is definitely a new challenge. In the hospital setting, you have a large team ready to back you up. As a school nurse, you are on your own. You have to rely on your own skills and make split second decisions every day. School nursing certainly presents challenges, but I gladly face those challenges when I see the difference I can make in my students’ lives.

Q. You were named a winner of St. Louis Magazine’s Excellence in Nursing Awards 2013. How did you react when you found out that you had won?

A. I was shocked at first! An associate of mine had nominated me without telling me, so I didn't find out until I had been selected as a finalist that any of this was even happening! I was also very grateful to have such a supportive principal. He invited the other administrators in my building to come to the awards ceremony, which in and of itself was such an exciting and surreal event. I was truly honored and humbled to be recognized among all of the extraordinary professionals in that room.

Q. How have you been inspired by your students?

A. There are so many teachable moments when working with students, and the lessons go both ways. One experience that sticks out to me is that of a young man – a sixth grader – who was having a hard time transitioning to middle school. He was vomiting every day on the bus and complaining of terrible headaches. He would soon get a heartbreaking diagnosis – he had glioblastoma, an aggressive and horrific form of brain cancer. It was a terribly sad thing to witness, but I was so inspired by that young man's courage and bravery in the face of his tragic disease. He continued to come to school while undergoing chemotherapy, always smiling and joyful throughout.

That young man taught me so much about life. He showed no fear, other than fear on his parents' behalf. As adults, we often get caught up in the small details of sometimes inconsequential things. When I look at this young man with all of his positivity in the face of his life's biggest challenge, I am humbled and inspired beyond words.

Q. What has been the greatest moment of your career?

A. In 2012, I wrote legislation that recognizes the importance of the expanding role of the school nurse and presented it to the Missouri General Assembly. The goal of this legislation was simply to get recognition for the work that school nurses do every day. It took five years of discussions with legislators and testifying before House and Senate committees, but I was very proud to have gotten the resolution passed and to help gain some appreciation for school nurses around the state.

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