Headache? Cough? Sore throat? Runny nose? Upset stomach? Been around people who are sick?” Nurse Hufstetler greets students each morning as they get out of the car with a quick smile, and then jumps to the list of questions at hand.
With the onset of the pandemic, Georgia-Cumberland Academy and John L. Coble Elementary School respective administrations and boards approved the hiring of nursing staff on their campuses. Stepping out in faith, GCA hired Dorothy Self as a full time nurse, and Coble hired Lorette Hufstetler in a part-time position.
With the support of administrators, local physicians, and the health and safety committees, both nurses jumped into their new roles as they updated offices, cleaned out the medicine cabinets, reviewed student health records, and, most importantly, initiated relationships with the local health department and parents … all this before the students even arrived.
Establishing and following protocols in response to the pandemic formed their initial focus. Both nurses found themselves on the front line as they assessed, sent for testing, and then followed up with students and families struggling with illness. They also dealt with the myriad of normal illnesses that children struggle with, like strep, allergies, flu, rashes, pink eye, and more. Both nurses realized the resource they had in each other, and they began checking in with each other, touching base on contact tracing, sharing news of open testing appointments, and even assisting each other when any one line was too long.
“Is the nurse here?” Students quietly ask for Hufstetler. The old conference room at Coble Elementary has been transformed into a nurse’s office to accommodate this growing ministry. Here, in privacy, students can ask questions, receive treatment, and sometimes simply step away for a quick break. Hufstetler walks the halls with a student struggling with constipation, teaches correct hand-washing techniques to every classroom, and is available to bandage a scraped knee following ball games. On the GCA campus, nurse Self can be found crossing campus to assess a twisted ankle, driving a student to urgent care on a Saturday evening, even taking blood pressure of adults passing through her office.
Although hired initially for their professional guidance with the COVID pandemic, their insight and ministry expand far beyond that realm. Hufstetler, noticing the extensive time that had elapsed since many students had undergone an eye exam, partnered with Prevent Blindness Georgia for a free screening for all students. Self, hearing many young women struggle to understand their bodies, scheduled time to answer questions and connect students in need with further medical care. Now in their second school year, both nurses are fully embedded in the educational ministry team.
On a recent morning, a parent patiently waited while Hufstetler screened their child. The parent, worried about their extremely shy child, shared how grateful they were for her time and gentleness — as she is one of two people at school the child feels comfortable speaking to. Hufstetler shared, “School is our family — our kids. We are here for them.”
School nursing isn’t just a job. At Coble Elementary School and Georgia-Cumberland Academy, it’s an incredible ministry extension of Jesus embodied by Hufstetler and Self.
Georgia-Cumberland | June 2022