Danielsville Elementary School nurse Donna Perry loves her job, something anyone can tell from just spending a few moments with her while she interacts with the kids as they stop by to have their temperature checked, some medication put on a scratch, or maybe just to say “hi.”
And that love and enthusiasm are likely just two of the reasons why she was chosen as this year’s system-wide “Support Person of the Year.”
“I have found the perfect thing for me,” she said. “I love kids and I love nursing – and this is the best of both worlds.”
Perry said she also wanted to stay close to home here in Madison County and knew there weren’t a lot of opportunities to be a nurse out here.
“It was important to me to stay a part of the community,” she said.
Perry worked for a number of years as for Madison County EMS and in fact, met Marc, her husband of 33 years “on the (EMS) truck.”
The couple has three children, Robert, 26, Kayla, 23, and Chandler, 15 and a various assortment of pets, including dogs and horses, and a turkey on their property just outside Danielsville.
This is Perry’s 11th year as school nurse at DES, and she has no plans to leave.
“I hope to retire here,” she said. Before that she taught health occupations at the high school for three years.
In addition to her duties as nurse at DES, she also serves as the school system’s lead nurse, meeting with other school nurses at least once per month and they speak often.
“We have a great group of nurses and it’s such a pleasure to work with them,” she said. “They all love the kids and they really, really care and they worry about them.”
Perry and her husband also serve as First Responders and her husband is the chief of the Danielsville Fire Department.
Perry said while some of a school nurse’s duties do include attending to students who get sick or who are hurt, there is also a lot more to the job. For example, she does health screenings, makes sure students’ vaccination records are up to date, helps identify contagious conditions, such as ringworm or lice and helps teachers by taking care of a child who may have a headache or other issue and needs to be out of the classroom, but not necessarily to go home. “That helps the parents too, if with their permission, I can administer Tylenol, or have them lie down for a while, and be able to stay at school, instead of having to be picked up,” she said.
The nurse also monitors students with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or allergies, and gives scheduled medications. Each nurse has a supply of EPI pens in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
“Ultimately I see us a first line to a child’s healthcare that help parents,” she said. “And I think our parents really appreciate having us here.”
She also sees the nurse’s role as more than just healthcare. “Some just need some attention and anything you do for them they just appreciate, and I’m glad to be here for them,” she said. “I don’t know their home life, and what I do know is likely the tip of the iceberg, so any attention I can give them is worth it.”
For the past three years, Perry and the other school nurses have partnered with the health department to provide free flu shots to students.
“I think that, along with the other services we provide, has helped to keep student attendance up,” she said.
And sometimes students are not the only ones who can utilize having a nurse on staff.
“Teachers sometimes need help too,” she said, adding that they may stop by for a blood pressure check, have a healthcare question or just need some tips on nutrition.
But ultimately, Perry said the kids make the job worthwhile.
“I go down the halls and the kids just make me feel like a rock star, yelling ‘hey Ms. Donna’ and giving out plenty of hugs, how could I not love it? ” she said.