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Life Lessons: Today's school nurse

By Nancy Werteen, Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 03 2014 04:00:00 AM CST

With the changing needs of kids and families, today's school nurse has had to evolve with the times.

CATASAUQUA, Pa. -

With the changing needs of kids and families, today's school nurse has had to evolve with the times, meeting challenges school nurses 50 years ago could never have imagined.

For example, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 kids with food allergies will have their first allergic reaction to food while at school.

These types of numbers have made the job of today's school nurse something very different than it used to be.

In the nurses office at Catasauqua High school, school nurse Donna Tercha takes temperatures, measurements, and gives medicine.

Tercha has been a nurse for 32 years, 17 of those years a school nurse. In Catasauqua, she splits her time between the middle school and the high school.

Tercha says over the years, she has seen the needs of the students broaden and change.

"Well we've got more diabetics in schools now and it seems to be increasing. There are students with seizure disorders who take medication for that. There are a lot of kids who take psychotropic meds for ADHA, depression and what not," explains Tercha.

And there are allergies and asthma. That's why Tercha applauds the new Emergency Epinephrine Act which gives schools financial incentives to keep so called epi-pens on hand for any student who needs one.

Tercha trains staff to administer the medicine at board meetings but she is always ready to administer the medicine.

It's estimated 25 percent of epinephrine injections in schools involve children whose allergy was unknown at the time of the reaction.

"If there's a bee sting and somebody has a reaction to it, we need to care for them and get them emergency care as fast as possible," says Tercha.

Tercha says even though her role has changed over the years, her love for the kids hasn't.

"I get to know the kids when they start in fifth grade and as long as they stay with us, I can watch them graduate eight years later and I have to admit that there is a tear now and then for some of those kids."

The new law encourages states to create policies that require epi-pens in all schools for all kids who need them.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania both have pending legislation.