Lake Havasu Unified School District’s nurses answered a special calling
Of the seven nurses employed by the Lake Havasu Unified School District, four are full time and three are part time.
Principals are the nurses’ direct supervisors at the schools sites. Aggie Wolter oversees the health offices at the district level where she is the director of special services.
Nurses are Tammie Dutton (Thunderbolt Middle School), Paula Struve (Havasupai and Nautilus), Lynn Burns (Jamaica), Tamara Knight (Lake Havasu High School), Linda Dux (Oro Grande), Shannon Ward (Smoketree) and Bernice Heinrich (Starline).
Shannon Ward said she went into nursing with the intention of working with youngsters. For her, the school setting is a perfect fit.
Ward previously worked at a pediatric doctor’s office. When there was an opening for a school nurse at Smoketree, she pounced on it. This is her first year at the school.
“I’d been watching for an opening with the district. I’m glad I’m at this school. It was my mom’s favorite school to work at when she was a substitute teacher,” Ward said.
The job is also a perfect fit for a working mother. Ward’s two children are students at Smoketree, so they travel to and from school together.
“We have the same breaks and summers off together. It’s the perfect schedule,” she said.
Wolter at the district office said identical family schedules are a perk of the job and may contribute to the low nurse turnover rate. In the next breath, she emphasized that school nurses are a breed apart.
“It’s a calling for them,” she said. “It’s one of those professions with a strong, dedicated force.”
School nurse salaries are slightly below that of a beginning teacher’s earnings, Wolter said. Tammie Dutton, who has been the school nurse at Thunderbolt Middle School for 22 years, shrugged off the difference.
“I accepted the pay a long time ago. It’s a family-friendly arrangement. The lifestyle and the days off will hook you in,” she said. She believes some school nurses quit because they are looking for something more in their careers.
“They don’t stay because of the pay or they find out they really thrive in an environment with high acuity patients. You won’t find that in a school setting.”