Stevensville School Nurse Connie Johnson was named the Montana School Nurse of the year for 2019-2020 by the Montana Association of School Nurses. The award was presented to Johnson at the MASN business meeting in Bozeman on October 17. Her award will also be acknowledged at the National Association of School Nurses 52nd Annual Conference in Las Vegas this summer.
In the letter to Jonson announcing the award, MASN President Erica Harp stated that the MASN Board received an overwhelming number of letters in support on Johnson’s behalf “that prove without a doubt that you are deserving of this award. Your nominators shared examples about your work in case management, education, wellness promotion, illness surveillance, and outstanding leadership, which demonstrate that your nursing practice embodies the NASN 21st Century School Nursing Framework. Congratulations on your well-deserved award!”
“I often say that I work with a team of outstanding professionals and with the best school nurse in the world,” stated Stevensville Primary School Principal Jessica Shourd. “Connie Johnson is extremely knowledgeable, profoundly competent, delicately professional, entirely confidential, unquestionably kind, compassionate, consistently friendly, easy-going, reliable, punctual, and meticulous.”
School Superintendent Dr. Bob Moore concurred, stating, “Ms. Johnson is passionate about school nursing and the care of our students. She is a problem-solver and highly competent. She holds herself to high standards of care for all students and is very compassionate in her approach while maintaining professional behavior and clinical standards.”
Johnson called the award overwhelming, adding, “This is just such a great place to work because all my colleagues are super supportive of school nurses and the work we do to support the kids.”
Johnson loves her job. She called it, “a busy energetic place to work.” She is kept busy pretty much non-stop tending to students from kindergarten up through twelfth grade. Working in a system in which the recommended nurse to student ratio is one nurse to every 750 students, she tends to over 1,000 students. She does a lot of chronic illness management, a lot of teaching, a lot of coordination with parents, local health care providers, teachers and administrators and counselors.
“It’s like a big interdisciplinary team approach to caring for kids,” she said. She said it is very rewarding work and “the kids are wonderful.”
Johnson works daily with students who are Type 1 Diabetics. Right now she is seeing four, visiting each one multiple times in the day, educating them about how to manage their condition and coordinating it all with the parents and their health care provider. The goal, she said, was to make them as independent as possible.
Then there are the usual illnesses and colds, broken arms, etc. and other issues like emotional, mental health, stress, or anxiety issues that present as a physical symptom, possibly, or a few physical symptoms. She works with a counseling team to try and understand both the physical and psychological aspects of the issues and how they can work together to help the students get through the issues.
She also works closely with local county health officials when issues develop at the school like the Whooping Cough cases last year.
Johnson said that she was not feeling overwhelmed, but that there are days when she can’t address all the students’ needs and has to do a bit of triage and maybe pass some students off to the administrative staff or an available teacher.
“The kids’ needs get met,” said Johnson. “Technically we are understaffed nursing-wise, but this is not a position that’s required in public schools. So, the fact that our school pays for a school nurse at all is huge. It’s a huge statement that they fund this position.”
Johnson has been a nurse for over 25 years. She graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman. She has worked in acute care at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and then worked for a number of years in Hospice care before taking her job as school nurse. This is her ninth year working for the Stevensville School District.