An ice pack a day keeps the students away

Bag+of+Ice

Ashley Kenney

Bag of Ice

Imagine: you’re sitting in class, and your brain feels as though it is pulsating against your skull. You can no longer focus on your assignment because of the pain. You contemplate going to the school nurse, but ultimately, you decide that it would just be a waste of time because she won’t be able to give you any medicine, and in the past, you have gone to the nurse for a headache only to be sent away with an ice pack, as if that makes it better. Unfortunately, this leaves you in agony for the rest of the school day, making it impossible to fully devote your attention to your classes.
This idea that school nurses treat every injury, illness, or inconvenience with an ice pack stems from the universal experience that students across the United States share where they go to the nurse looking for relief, but they get turned away with only an ice pack in tow. I’ve decided to deem these experiences “ice pack moments.” Most people have had their own ice pack moment; quite frankly, if you told me that you haven’t, I’d think you were lying.
Although I have yet to experience an ice pack moment at Lanier, my previous experiences in elementary and middle school have definitely impacted my willingness to go to the school nurse when something is wrong. In elementary school especially, everytime I went to the school nurse for a headache or nausea, I was given an ice pack as treatment, which never helped me feel any better. This created this idea in my head that if I went to the school nurse for anything, I’d end up feeling the same as before, and the nurse would not do anything to help me.
Abby Conter, a junior at Lanier, had their ice pack moment in elementary school. At their school, there was a small field that they had to run around during P.E. class. Abby got so dizzy that they were close to passing out, so they went to the nurse. However, the nurse only gave them an ice pack to hold to make them feel better. As for Abby, this previous experience with the school nurse has not discouraged them from visiting the nurse when something is wrong now.
Unfortunately, these past experiences with school nurses can have an effect on students’ willingness to visit the nurse when they actually need help. While this can vary from student to student, I don’t think I am alone when I say that I am reluctant to go to the nurse because of my ice pack moments.
I feel as though this issue is not about whether or not the nurse is doing their job properly, but rather that it is about the nurse not being able to do anything more for the students. Students can only take medication if it is kept in the clinic for them, which requires a lot of forms, but Ms. Andreasen, our clinic clerk, will call your parent or guardian and have them send an email saying that they give her permission to give you the medicine if it is an emergency. Since they legally cannot give you the medicine without those forms, the only thing left to offer is an ice pack. I don’t doubt that school nurses feel bad when they are forced to turn students away because of this.
When asked about the stereotype against school nurses, Ms. Andreasen responded, “Ice does have many medical uses. Ice will relieve swelling, itching, and burning and reduce pain. When someone is first injured, there is most likely inflammation … so ice is used to reduce the inflammation.” With this, it is clear that school nurses don’t just hand out ice packs for the fun of it, but rather because ice can be used to initially treat many things.
It is important that we encourage more students to visit the school nurse when they need to for the health and safety of themselves as well as other students and faculty in the building. A large part of the ice pack stereotype comes from misinformation about how the school clinic operates.
According to Ms. Andreasen, “What it boils down to is, school nurses are not your parents and cannot treat you or give medication without our proper paperwork and medication brought into the clinic. If we were to treat a student with say over-the-counter cream or lotions, and the student has a reaction to it, the clinic person is liable and could possibly lose their job.”
I feel as though not a lot of people have considered the school nurses’ perspective on this stereotype. While an ice pack might not always be the best treatment option, sometimes it is the only option school nurses have depending on if students have medication in the clinic and the proper paperwork filled out. That being said, students should not let their past experiences and prejudices against school nurses stop them from going to the nurse when needed because who knows, maybe what they need is ice!