SPOTLIGHT ON JEANNE KIEFNER

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1 SPOTLIGHT ON JEANNE KIEFNER NJSSNA recognized Jeanne Kiefner, retired school nurse from Cherry Hill, for her outstanding contributions to school nursing. Jeanne was a pioneer school nurse in New Jersey and made a name on the national stage as well. This month, we shine the spotlight on one of our own success stories! After working at Philadelphia General Hospital for 12 years as the head nurse of a surgical unit, Jeanne taught in a Practical Nurse Program in the Philadelphia Public Schools. She found teaching and working with adult students personally rewarding. She was still in the hospital atmosphere where healing and learning took place. Hospital and direct patient care was always her passion. Between positions, Jeanne found herself in various educational environments with few people mentoring her about her future. Jeanne was one of those nurses caught between attaining a diploma in nursing, which seemed to be the be-all and endall until she started to recognize the need for more scientific knowledge and leadership skills. She believed that the University of Pennsylvania s College of General Studies was going to meet her needs. Around this same time, the

2 American Nurses Association (ANA) began a campaign to promote a Bachelor s Degree in Nursing. Nurses of the 60 s and 70 s really did not recognize the value of this educational level. Jeanne remembers saying, Florence did it without a formal degree---why can t I? Jeanne didn t realize then that she was a lady ahead of her time and soon she needed to catch-up. Jeanne says: If you think I was resistant, you are correct. After much exploration in the early 70 s, Jeanne visited her children s school nurse who told her that becoming a school nurse was a good direction. Jeanne says: She did not give me any other thoughts or explanation of what she did. I truly did not realize there was more than administering first aid and seeing the sick children. Sending the child home without a clinical assessment met the needs of the sick child. Jeanne s greatest challenge was enrolling in the one school that offered a certificate in School Nursing and Health Education. The long courses introduced her to many school health policies and procedures. At that time, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) was lobbying for the school nurse job description and position title to become equal with that of teachers in the public schools. When she completed the 40 plus semester hours which included a practicum in school nursing, she interviewed for a job in Cherry Hill. In 1972, there were few interview guidelines regarding who could interview you, what the interviewer could ask, and what salary you could request. After years of hospitalbased care, this was working in a brand new environment! Jeanne began her school nursing career in a new middle school which offered her so many challenges to be successful and opportunities to work in a different capacity with teachers. Teachers needed her to

3 teach them about the health of their students. Even then, teachers knew healthy children learn better. Jeanne learned about team teaching and became part of team meetings, where health was considered a necessary component of learning. Staying up-to-date on diseases and health conditions was not easy before the age of computers and Google. The librarian at Cooper Hospital became an invaluable resource--it became a partnership meeting Jeanne s needs and supporting the librarian s happiness while teaching the school nurse. School nursing yesterday was concerned with heat and cold in the building--yes one building--but now, Jeanne says, one must be fully aware of the total physical environment which affects the health of everyone coming in contact with the school. Is the lighting safe? Is the noise-level acceptable for learning? Is the grass being cut during the school day with the windows opened? And can school nurses in this new millennium promote the psychological environment by an awareness of gender issues, bullying, feelings, and social interactions? These are all new concepts which the school nurse must include in clinical assessments. Asking the right questions about a student s presentation in the nurse s office is the most important thing Jeanne learned. What to do with that information is critical. Jeanne says: I quickly learned the phrase tell me about your injury is better than why are you here? Kids today are multidimensional and care must be holistic. A phrase I hate is frequent flyers. I quickly learned everyone had some reason for visiting the school nurse. When asked what advice she has for new school nurses, Jeanne is quick to say that the definition of health is not only being well, but being able to use every power on has to use ultimate health is being the best

4 a person can be at any time. That is the message for school nurses with themselves, their students, their faculty and the community. Jeanne also tells us that interviewing skills, eye contact, observations, and documentation are the most important tools used with children. Documentation was Jeanne s main introduction to school nursing research because it provided the history and road map to her professional progress the fore-runner of today s evidence-based practice. One of Jeanne s senior colleagues introduced her to professional organizations and from there, she felt her passion for the profession grow. Jeanne does not know the meaning of I can t, I won t or NO; she is grateful for her education as a diploma nurse. Looking back, Jeanne says When I chose to be involved I would always be glad to be asked and not complain that I did not have the time or energy. All levels of my environment increased my learning ability to perform a better job in schools. I do not know how to measure success except through the many friendships. I have accepted the challenge of being an advocate for our profession by educating others, identifying and creating the need for change, disseminating broad-based and professional knowledge, and hoping to empower others in the employment setting to control healthcare issues. Not only did Jeanne take an active role in school nursing in New Jersey, she is seen as a true leader on the national front. In fact, Jeanne is proud to be one of New Jersey s two NASN fellows (Dr. Laura Jannone will be inducted at NASN in June 2012). Jeanne says she rarely compared NJ to other states because each state seemed to be grounded on different scholarships and perspectives. Even though

5 children s needs are usually similar, the administrative, financial, legislative and health department regulations that affect school nursing practice are often very different. New Jersey is very fortunate to have a long history of school nurse leaders who developed the model and showed us the way. Reflecting on those times, Jeanne notes: We were not survival-oriented but we were committed to our task of developing the vision of school nursing. We did learn to cope well as evidenced by the low turnover of school nurse positions in NJ. New Jersey is so fortunate that since the 70 s we have been recognized as professional leaders in public schools. We have been the model for other states that struggle with their image and recognition of professional credentials. Today s school nurses must be future-thinking healthcare professionals. We can depend well on technology but we must remember the value of supportive colleagues and professional organizations, and then the information superhighway. Our school nurses role of 2012 will be tomorrow s vision. Jeanne Kiefner was truly a visionary leader and a committed professional. New Jersey school nurses are proud of Jeanne and her accomplishments, which continue on in her retirement. Her involvement with school nursing professional development and her work with the American Healthcare Institute have brought her recognition as well. Thank you Jeanne for all you have done and will continue to do to support school nursing! You are a shining example of School Nurses Leading, Teaching, Caring!

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