MURRAY — Vicki Williams said she always wanted to be a nurse from the time she was young. This year, she will be retiring from her position as a nurse in the Calloway County school system after more than 27 years.
Williams said in that time, she has enjoyed helping people find wellness, especially young people. Watching them grow and become parents themselves is rewarding, but most of all, Williams said she was drawn to nursing – particularly being a school nurse – because of the challenge.
“I have been wanting to be a nurse since I was a little, bitty girl,” Williams said. “Just caring for people … I know when I was a little girl, I used to bandage up all of my dolls. My older sister was a nurse as well, and when I watched her, it just confirmed that I wanted to do that as well.
“I loved those subjects in school: I loved anatomy, biology, math and all of those subjects we have to know about.”
Williams said she always knew she wanted to be a nurse, but that becoming a school nurse is something that came along later.
“I think as nurses, we all have to explore different areas to know for sure, but I really wanted to work labor and delivery,” Williams said. “And with my three-year stint there, I was really drawn toward pediatrics, nursery and that type of thing and then moved to Dr. Austin’s office and worked in pediatrics. Then I heard about the school nurse opening and I thought how perfect it would be to still be able to be a nurse to children, and yet have versatile hours that I could be home as well, because you know hospitals never close.”
Williams said being a school nurse is entirely different from being a nurse in a hospital or doctor’s office. The job comes with a lot of responsibilities, and Williams said that requires an ability to be self-sufficient.
“This is a different kind of nursing, and people will never know the depth that is goes to,” Williams said. “It requires doing a lot on your own, because you don’t have a medical backup, so to speak — as we do in the hospital or in a doctor’s office — there is no practicing physician in the building.
“So it has been quite a learning experience as well, and it has really helped me and my nursing skills. Especially to become more self-confident and learn some new skills.”
Williams said there are a myriad of examples of what separates being a school nurse from a more traditional position at the hospital or in a doctor’s office. One of the biggest she mentioned was helping set school health policy.
“If I have a medical emergency, I have to take charge and determine a lot of things on my own,” she said. “I have to develop the medical policies in this school system, whereas they are already developed somewhere else by other medical professionals.”
She said doing that is a big change from what most nurses would have to deal with, but another big difference is that a lot of the people she works with on a daily basis are not in the medical field, but are educators.
“Delegating medical procedures to non-licensed personnel is a big one,” she said. “I don’t have other nurses to fulfill medical duties. I have trained people to give medications; I train them in CPR. I have to do a lot of required trainings for school with anything regarding health. It is becoming so big, and more and more, things are being placed on Kentucky school health.”
Williams said the state currently doesn’t require a nurse for each school within a school system. Williams herself handles duties at Calloway County’s high school, middle school, pre school and day treatment center. Another nurse handles two elementary schools and a part-time nurse through the Calloway County Health Department helps at the other elementary school. As such, she said there are a lot of patients for school nurses to deal with on a daily basis.
“I am also the health coordinator for the entire district,” she said. “I am responsible for ordering all of the supplies, doing a lot of the trainings, monitoring all of the other schools and assisting with their vision screenings and all of that. It is a very huge job and people do not realize that.”
Over the years, she said the challenge of the job is one of the things that draws her to it, but more than that, it is watching her kids grow.
“It is such a challenge and I am always up for a challenge,” she said. “I love my kids and I have watched them grow and change. I have seen so many advances through the years come through the health care field where kids who used to be unable to attend school because of their chronic medical conditions are now able to. I have seen them from the time they are in kindergarten until they are graduating — I have two this year.
“Just helping them be able to survive school with their problems is very rewarding.”
Williams said that in spite of the hard work that is required in the job, she does it because she loves it.
“Taking care of people … it’s like it breathes life into me,” she said. “If I help somebody else, then they have helped me in return. That’s what keeps me ticking, and I don’t intend to quit working.”
Williams currently also works in the emergency room at Murray-Calloway County Hospital. After retiring from the school system, she said she still has plans to remain in the emergency room.
“I do not intend to quit being a nurse; I don’t think I will ever be able to quit being a nurse,” she said. “I don’t think I could survive without being a nurse. So I am going to keep working in the emergency room on the side, and I am going to keep doing that maybe one to two days a week and then I am going to babysit my grandbaby.”