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Alumni Q&A: Caring for the community, one child at a time

This alumni spotlight is part of our celebration of the Temple BSN program’s 50th anniversary. Read more stories here.

Shannon Smith is a Philadelphia native who developed an appreciation for community nursing while in the BSN program at the College of Public Health. She’s followed that passion for more than two decades by working for the Philadelphia School District, starting as a school nurse.

Today, Smith is the school health coordinator, where she oversees all of the district’s health-related services, initiatives and programs. She discussed how she found her way into school nursing, why she moved into an administrative role and what inspires her about community nursing.

How did you come to work for the School District of Philadelphia?

I was working on a medical-surgery floor at a hospital and all my weekend supervisors were school nurses. They told me about an opening as a school nurse.  At the time I had young children, and with this position we would be on the same schedule. I decided to apply, and from there I was a school nurse for twenty years.

What did you enjoy about being a school nurse?

The community nursing part of it. I’m from Philadelphia, and the community portion of nursing was highly stressed at Temple. We did a nice community rotation and I found that to be something I was gearing toward. When this job came along, where I could practice that, I hopped right on it.

Why did you move into an administrative role?

The school health coordinator expressed that I should apply for the position. At first I wasn’t interested, but she suggested I shadow her. What she was doing, the amount of knowledge and the special education law that was involved, intrigued me. The education I could get from this position is what made me go along with it.

What do you like most about the position now?

I work first-hand with students that need the most help, and I can go in and make a difference. When they can access their program because we removed a barrier, that gives me the reward I need to keep going.

For instance, if a child is assigned to an autistic support plan, maybe he’s unable to communicate with his classmates or teachers because he has a communication deficit. It takes me to order him a communication device. Now he’s in the room talking to his classmates, or he can tell his teacher he doesn’t understand something. It’s one little thing, but now he can participate.

How did your education at Temple prepare you for school nursing?

The diversity of the clients I saw during my clinical rotations impacted me. It was drilled into us to not judge a book by its cover, to dig deeper and see what’s going on and to always take a holistic approach to treating a patient. You don’t just put a blanket statement on anyone. You just try to make the situation better, and I think I’ve applied that to every job I’ve had.

Posted:  September 25, 2017