Honoring a healer, educator

The Baltimore Sun

About 55 children visit Susan Brock in the health suite at Churchville Elementary School each day.

Some of them come in daily to take their medications, while others have abrasions, fevers or sore throats. And some youngsters just come in to talk, or to give Brock a high-five or a hug.

"School nurses have to be patient and compassionate," said Brock, 59, who has worked as a nurse for 39 years. "I have some frequent flyers that come in, and they just want to talk. They need attention and kindness."

For 23 years, Brock, affectionately known as "Ms. Brock" by students and their parents, has cared for the pupils at the elementary school. Last week, during National Nurses Week, she was named the Harford County School Nurse of the Year.

The recognition was deserved, said Thomas Smith, in his first year as the principal of Churchville Elementary School.

"In my personal opinion, she is the best school nurse anyone could ever be," Smith said. "She has a wonderful rapport with the students, parents and all the staff. She makes being a school nurse look easy, but it takes a special person to be a school nurse."

Pupils at the school agreed with Smith's sentiments.

When Devon Perrine heard Brock had been selected as the school nurse of the year, he was excited.

"At first I couldn't believe it," said Perrine, 9, of Street. "Then I was like woo-hoo! She really is the best nurse in the whole world. She is so nice I can't even say it."

Brock said she became a nurse because they impressed her when she was a child.

"The nurses I saw when I was growing up were so intelligent and caring," she said. "I thought that what they did was very interesting."

Upon graduating from high school, she attended what was then Harford Junior College, and in 1968, she graduated with an associate's degree in nursing.

She went to work as a psychiatric nurse at the veterans hospital in Perry Point. During the next two decades, Brock worked as a medical-surgical nurse and an industrial nurse. After her children were born, she worked part time.

Once they started school, she took a job as a school nurse because it allowed her to be there for her children, she said.

Brock is a top-notch nurse, said Mary Nasuta, the nurse coordinator for the Harford County public schools.

"We are proud to have Ms. Brock as our School Nurse of the Year because she exemplifies excellent school nurse practice," she said.

Brock started out caring for pupils at Churchville and Riverside elementary schools.

Eventually another nurse was given the position at Riverside, but Brock remained at Churchville.

She now sees the children of students she helped 20 years ago, said Tara Dedeaux, assistant principal at Churchville Elementary.

"She is such a caring person," Dedeaux said. "It shocked me that she has never received recognition for her work before now."

Shortly after she was named School Nurse of the Year, fifth-graders at Churchville made her a congratulatory poster thanking her for her care, and she received balloons and a fruit arrangement from her many fans at the school.

Although her role has remained the same throughout the last two decades, her job has become more challenging, she said.

"The mission of the school nurse is to provide a safe, healthy, nurturing atmosphere for children," said Brock of Jarrettsville. "But that mission has become more difficult. We have children with insulin pumps, some who require tube feedings, and food allergies are more prevalent."

The placement of the first school nurse occurred in 1902 in New York's Lower East Side to reduce absenteeism and the spread of communicable diseases among young children, Nasuta said.

"Today's school nurses provide direct care of ill and injured students and manage students with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and special needs," she said.

Other duties of the school nurse include participating in vision and hearing screenings, ensuring compliance with immunizations and maintaining required health records. In addition to her regular duties, Brock has created a presentation and video to help teach children the importance of hand washing.

Day to day, working as a school nurse is similar to the job of a triage nurse, Brock said.

"My job is to meet the immediate health needs of the children, whatever they may be," she said, as she assisted a child who fell on the playground and scraped her knee. "I have to handle an influx of children needing care."

Often parents come to her before they take their child to the doctor, she said.

"School nurses have the resources to help parents get what they need to meet the medical needs of their children," she said. "We can send parents to the right place for glasses, and to get signed up for health care when they don't have it."

One of her biggest challenges is caring for children who may not be physically ill, she said.

"There is a reason that children come in to see me, even if they are faking," Brock said. "I talk to them, let them tell me what's on their mind, and then I encourage them to go back to their classroom."

Brock said when the day is done, she comes away with a good feeling.

"Being a school nurse, I get to know all the children and the staff," she said. "Each day is rewarding."

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