A commitment to making every student feel valued and a refusal to limit care to an eight-hour work day have garnered two HISD nurses the district’s highest honors for medical professionals in a school setting.
Lashawnda Harris, who serves at Lyons Elementary School, and Karen Adams, who serves at Sharpstown International School (SIS), have been named HISD’s Elementary and Secondary Nurses of the Year (respectively) for 2014.
Harris was selected in part for giving her undivided attention to every student who approaches her. “I believe every person is important,” she said, “no matter their age or title.”
“She has a special way of making sure all students feel cared for,” adds Lyons ES Principal Cecilia Gonzalez, “and she is always seeking out opportunities to learn more.”
Harris is also known for creating “teachable moments” out of the issues affecting her students. “My daughter was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at seven years old,” explained Lyons ES parent Erica Castillo. “Ms. Harris made all the necessary arrangements to assure us that she was being well taken care of at school. She even helped organize a fun run/walk to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and educated other students about the disease.”
At the secondary level, Karen Adams was selected for her determination to provide the best possible care to all students, even if that means staying late, digging deeper, or taking extra steps to make sure a treatment has been effective.
Adams is known for helping students with limited financial resources obtain treatment for free (or at a substantially reduced cost), re-screening students after they get new glasses to ensure that the new prescriptions are accurate, and taking extra time to ask questions about general well-being when students show up in her office.
“I love my students and their needs come first, even if that means leaving late from work,” says Adams. “Exceptional nursing practice many times extends beyond the boundaries of an eight-hour work day, especially when you’re a school nurse. And sometimes, the physical complaint is only a symptom of a much more complex issue.”
In her seven years serving as a school nurse, Adams’ careful scrutiny has helped dozens of students make lifestyle changes or obtain timely medical intervention, even when they came to her unaware they were exhibiting various symptoms or were at-risk of developing certain conditions.
“Many of these diagnoses have been determined because Nurse Adams took some extra time with a child,” said SIS Dean Pam Hubbert.
Harris and Adams were formally recognized during a special ceremony held on May 16 at Davis High School.
“HISD’s Nurses of the Year truly characterize the professional standards of school nursing,” said HISD Director of Health and Medical Services Gwendolyn Johnson. “They have confidence in their practice, and they see themselves as important members of their school communities—both in service and in leadership. They are respected for their compassion and professionalism by those they serve, and I am proud to call them HISD school nurses.”