Navigating brand-new waters
Class of 1993 alumna navigates a new world in school nursing
By Kristen Zapata
According to Julie Mize, RN, BSN, being a school nurse is not just “Band-Aids and bonbons.” As the lead nurse for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD), Mize always has her nurse’s cap on, scanning everyone she encounters from head to toe.
“I can’t turn it off,” she laughed when admitting to assessing people in the grocery store check-out line.
School nurses play a vital role in promoting the well-being of their community. They are responsible for providing nursing services and health education to students, staff and families. Their primary goal: Ensure students are healthy, safe and ready to learn.
They hardly have a typical day; one day spent administering medications or stitching up torn pants and the next providing emergency care for substance overdose or reviving an unconscious diabetic. A new one for Mize was cushioning a bullet wound scar against the small shoe it was rubbing on.
Always a nurse
Born in Waxahachie, Texas, and raised in Uvalde, Mize had never considered a profession other than nursing. Since she can recollect, every choice was made to position herself for it. She accomplished her goal in 1993 when she graduated from the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing and started working in obstetrics.
Mize later found a position as a school nurse with UCISD and enjoyed more than 18 years there before she and her family moved outside of Texas for a time. She became a career and technical education instructor of medical terminology and health occupations dual-credit courses, but returned to UCISD in 2020 to help lead the charge against COVID-19.
In her role as a lead nurse, Mize was covering another campus the morning of May 24, 2022, when Robb Elementary School lost 19 children and two teachers at the hands of an active shooter.
“Everything has changed,” Mize said. “Those teachers and kids have been very resilient. They have memories, but they are doing very well. The way we work, however, will never be the same. If a student comes in with a stomachache, I need to determine if they are truly sick or if it’s a trauma symptom. More often now, I’ll have our counselor meet with them. It’s brand-new waters.”
She and her team carefully navigate those waters to ensure their students get all the support they need.
A building committee member, Mize has input on the new elementary school campus that will replace Robb Elementary. She advocated for repositioning the nurse’s office for better accessibility to students and parents and including both sick- and well-patient areas. The school is expected to be completed by October 2024.
“I’m excited about the stuff we’re doing there,” she said. “It is going to be fabulous once we’re done. It’s difficult, but we are hopeful as we move forward.”
The varied and invaluable role of school nurses
School nurses administer medications, provide first aid, manage chronic health conditions, conduct health screenings and promote healthy behaviors. Many school nurses also provide mental health services to students, such as counseling and referrals to mental health professionals.
And that’s just on normal days
Because of the diverse and demanding role of the school nurse, the National Association of School Nurses recommends that school nurses be licensed registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with additional training in pediatrics and school health.
As a guideline, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least one full-time nurse for every 750 students. In Texas, the average number of students to one school nurse was 1,107 in the 2019–2020 school year. And Texas Health and Human Services reported that out of the 254 total counties in Texas, 27 did not have a school nurse employed in a public or charter school in the 2019–2020 school year.