In 2004, Barb Herrell and Andrea Cain both had kids in the same karate studio in Murfreesboro.
Barb was burning the candle at both ends.
She worked nights as a nurse in an intensive care unit, trying to get a few hours of sleep during the day, and then helping with family obligations and the needs of her children until she had to go back to work that night.
Andrea, who had only recently left a position as a nurse in an emergency room, felt her pain.
“I could recognize what she was feeling because my kids were young, trying to fit in everything they need, plus your career,” Andrea said.
But Andrea had transitioned into a school nurse position, and she encouraged Barb to consider doing the same.
“That is where I was wanting to go,” Barb said, “the total, complete other side of the mountain, the proactive approach of school nursing because we’re teaching about health.”
Fast forward 14 years and now both ladies not only work as nurses for Rutherford County Schools, but they have been recognized as among the best in Tennessee.
Barb, who serves as the critical nursing supervisor and nursing education coordinator, has been named the 2018-2019 School Nurse Administrator of the Year. Andrea, the nurse at Christiana Elementary School, has been named School Nurse of the Year.
Both earned their awards after being nominated and then reviewed by other members of the Tennessee Association of School Nurses.
Andrea has been with Rutherford County Schools for the past eight years and enjoys applying her background in emergency adult care to help students.
“I’m thrilled to be able to take care of the same group of kids and get to know them and their families each and every day — to teach them,” Andrea explained. “I’m in an elementary school and so there are a lot of opportunities to teach them healthy behaviors and try to promote a healthy environment.”
Sarah Winters, the Health Services Director for Rutherford County Schools, isn’t at all surprised that Andrea has been recognized by her peers.
“Her nursing process is methodical,” Winters said. “I can tell this from the documentation that we have. Working with her, speaking with her, reading her evaluations from her supervisors, it’s very thorough. Her demeanor with staff, students and families is spot on, and she always has a can-do attitude.”
Barb has been with Rutherford County Schools for 14 years and has worked in several local schools until she transitioned into her current supervisory role.
School nurses work to ensure students with medical needs are able to thrive in a school setting, and the nurses also effort to encourage healthy habits,” Barb said.
“The community sees us as putting on band-aids and sitting there waiting for sick kids to come to us, but we try to be very proactive and get out into the classrooms,” Barb said. “We teach about how to be healthy so you can be at school and how to sleep properly.”
The role of a school nurse has changed dramatically over the past decade, she added.
“There’s been a huge change in the acuity of our students,” she explained. “We’ve seen a lot of students surviving premature births and a lot of other conditions, where before, they wouldn’t have been at school. Now they’re at school, and they need a nurse caring for them in order to attend school.”
Barb embodies the goals of the Health Services Department, Winters said.
“She get’s it, that’s what I have to say,” Winters lamented. “The mission of our department is just what her gut tells her: it’s proactive, it’s educational, it’s preventative, it’s being out there, its being visible and helping these kids be healthy, how to stay in school despite whatever their challenges are. She is one of the hardest working people I know.”
Bard was also recognized as the 2007 Nurse of the Year by The Tennessean.
Rutherford County Schools currently has 60 full-time nurses serving the district, as well as others who serve part-time or as substitutes.
It’s significant that both award winners this year are from the same school district, and Winters can’t recall if it’s ever happened in the past.
Both Barb and Andrea will travel to Denver this summer to be recognized at the national conference along with other top school nurses from other states.
Photo: From left, Barb Herrell, the critical nursing supervisor and nursing education coordinator for Rutherford County Schools, has been named the 2018-2019 School Nurse Administrator of the Year. Andrea Cain, right, the nurse at Christiana Elementary School, has been named School Nurse of the Year. (James Evans/RCS)