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Wednesday is National School Nurse Day

— Karen Jarvis-Vance will spend much of today visiting the city’s six school buildings, delivering flowers and messages to a special set of employees: school nurses.

In honor of National School Nurse Day, Jarvis-Vance, who is Northampton’s director of health services and education, will also be encouraging school administrators to join their colleagues around the country in recognizing the critical jobs school nurses are performing.

“We are busier than ever,” said Jarvis-Vance, a 23-year veteran of nursing who started her school career as Northampton High School’s nurse in 1997. “One thing people might not realize is how educationally prepared we are.”

For example, most people don’t realize that school nurses in Massachusetts are professionally licensed by the state, just as teachers are, Jarvis-Vance said.

“Half of us have master’s degrees or are nationally certified,” she added. “Most of us come from an acute-care setting before working in schools.”

Some other facts Jarvis-Vance shared about school nursing in Northampton:

∎ Last year, 81 percent of students visited a nurse at least once during the school year. Northampton has a nurse in each school building and a traveling nurse who sees students districtwide.

∎Twenty-six percent of all students enrolled in the city schools last year had a health condition that required them to see a nurse on a regular basis.

∎ Ninety-three percent of students who saw a school nurse last year were able to return to their classroom after the visit. “Which means they were able to learn,” said Jarvis-Vance, who has been the city’s head nurse since 2006.

Jarvis-Vance initially set out to be a medical laboratory technician. “Until we visited a lab and I saw all those people sitting around behind microscopes,” she said. “I wanted to be around people.”

Nursing — particularly school nursing — was where she found her niche.

“I wanted to try to do something for kids that was proactive,” said Jarvis-Vance, whose mom is also a nurse. “And that’s a lot of what we school nurses do.”

National School Nurse Day was established in 1972 by the National Association of School Nurses to raise public awareness about the role of the nation’s 74,000 school nurses.

For more information, visit www.nasn.org.

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