100 Years of School Nursing
On October 1, 1902 Lina Rogers Struthers was the first nurse to be placed in the New York City school system in a one month experiment to attempt to reduce health-related absenteeism. At the end of the month the results were so promising that the New York City Board of Health continued her appointment. By December of that year she was named Superintendent of School Nurses with a staff of 12 nurses. Two months later 15 more nurses were hired. During the first year health-related absenteeism was reduced by nearly 90%. As a result of the success of the experiment in New York, other large cities soon began hiring school nurses; Los Angeles (1904), Boston (1905), Philadelphia (1908) and Chicago (1910).
In Spotsylvania County the first school nurse, Mary Ellen Swisher, was hired in 1967 by a federally funded program and worked until 1969. Margaret Dix, RN was then hired and served all seven schools in Spotsylvania County. She retired in 1989. She continued to work as a substitute school nurse giving her 34 years of experience.
Today we celebrate the fact that there is a registered nurse assigned to each Spotsylvania County school with a Nurse Supervisor. Barbara Hughes is recognized as the longest-term, full-time nurse in the county. She was hired in 1979 to work in three schools. Both Ms. Dix and Ms. Hughes agree that the biggest change they have seen over the years is that by having a nurse in every school more students with chronic illnesses are allowed to pursue their education in the classroom as opposed to staying home. The ultimate goal of school nursing has not changed; to help keep students healthy so they can be in school and receive the best education we have to offer.
We encourage you to recognize your school nurse in May, on National School Nurse's Day. Take this opportunity to express your appreciation for the expertise and dedication they offer to the students of Spotsylvania County.