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Getting his daily dose of independence

Nurses in schools give students the tools for a healthy life

Gavin video

Gavin Wernette is a 10-year-old boy who likes reading, kickball and cars. What he doesn’t like is giving himself shots, which, as someone with diabetes, he has to do several times a day. “It is hard to deal with diabetes sometimes,” says Gavin.

On school days, though, he gets guidance from Suellen Nida, R.N., a nurse with Legacy Silverton Medical Center who works full time at schools in the Silverton area.

“Suellen always greets me with a hug,” says Gavin, a fifth grader at Robert Frost Elementary School in Silverton. “She makes me feel comfortable when I am testing my blood sugars and doing my shots. It makes me feel happy and welcome. She has helped me become more independent.”

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‘Grow up to be strong, healthy adults’ 

Nida has been working in the schools for 11 years, overseeing the health of some 3,200 children. She provides routine care plus works with students who have additional needs, from asthma and diabetes, to those with spina bifida, epilepsy, heart problems and other conditions.
Gavin Wernett and Suellen Nida
“Some of these kids would otherwise have to stay home,” she says. “I get to help them stay in school, have normal lives and grow up to be strong, healthy adults.” 

In a contract with the schools, Legacy Silverton Medical Center places up to three nurses in Silverton-area schools to work with about 4,700 children, part of our mission to improve the health of the community. 

‘An honor’

Gavin, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4, pricks his finger eight to 12 times a day to draw a blood sample. He drops the sample on a test strip that he puts into a glucose meter, which gives him a reading of his blood sugars. He then can figure out what kind of foods he should eat and whether he needs an insulin injection.Suellen Nida, school nurse

Gavin is amazingly good at these tasks. But, hey, he is still a kid, and a mistake can lead to serious health issues. Which is where Nida comes in –– seeing Gavin about four times a day to make sure he does everything right, while doing a little teaching along the way. “You do the math,” she tells him while they tally the carbohydrates in his lunch.

“What we do really helps because the more he gets into the habit, the more successful he will be as an adult,” Nida explains. “It’s the same with the other kids we work with. They become more independent.”

She loves her role. “I see it as an honor,” she says. “I get to make a difference in my community, make a difference with these kids. It’s what drives me. It’s the greatest job in the world."

(Originally posted in October 2016)