HEALING HANDS: North Elementary nurse Elaine Holland sits at her office desk. Before coming to North Elementary, Holland spent 15 years in the Ivory Coast, where she provided medical treatment to impoverished communities.
CHRISTOPHER DAVIS for GTR Newspapers
Not that there is ever a slow time of the school year for Elaine Holland, but the winter months definitely bring an increase in workload for the school nurse of Bixby’s North Elementary.
Between doling out ice packs for playground bumps and bruises and serving as lead detective in the effort to discern if students are actually injured or just trying to get out of class, Holland is leading the battle against the flu this season.
When asked if she has a secret weapon against the impending attack from the flu, she smiles wryly and responds, “Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.”
Such direct and distilled advice is crucial to her effectiveness. To describe Holland as a master multitasker hardly scratches the surface of her role at the school. Students, staff and faculty walk into her office every few minutes; an intercom and phone fill any lulls in traffic. Still, Holland is a natural at dealing with the chaos and seems to genuinely thrive as she dances from desk to ice machine to phone, recounting her career and world travels without missing a beat.
Holland’s love of children and professional experience overseas makes her the perfect person to lead the effort to keep children safe and healthy. A registered nurse with a degree in theology, Holland’s daily regimen at North Elementary is child’s play compared to the previous chapter of her career. Following her undergrad studies, she traveled to Belgium to learn French and study tropical diseases and treatment before a 15-year stint in the Ivory Coast, where she provided medical treatment to impoverished communities with little access to doctors. Holland was the head of a small clinic with no doctor. She served as the top medical professional on staff.
Her Bixby roots and passion for pediatrics brought her back to Oklahoma in 2001, where she began serving as school nurse at the newly-opened North Elementary. Beyond the usual regimen of tending to children, Holland is also responsible for training staff and faculty on hygiene best practices and first-responder responsibilities, such as CPR. She meets weekly with her district colleagues to refine health service protocols.
Holland and her colleagues are also in charge of hearing and vision screening, and they each have anecdotes of catching some harrowing health issues in students.
“People don’t realize all that is entailed in serving as school nurse,” says Holland.
“There are more complex illnesses and challenges our children have.” While a good deal of her day does involve ice packs and Band Aids, Holland monitors medications for students and even more serious issues. One time, a student case led to a cancer diagnosis.
No doubt, North Elementary staff, students and parents are grateful for Holland and her skilled staff, caring for children when they are away from home. Individuals can always take a moment and show their appreciation for the school nurse with a simple ‘thank you’ and make Holland’s heart soar by remembering her most important rule, “Wash your hands.”