When students think of a school nurse, they may picture someone handing out cough drops and checking for lice. But at West, Nurse Regina Pierce knows that her job is so much more, and she literally saves lives.
In her eight years as a nurse, she has had to perform CPR six times, save a child’s life with suctioning (a process to keep a patient breathing with a tube called a trach) and vaccinate 14,000 children in one year. Pierce says that on a scale of one to 10 her job usually rates a three, but when the paramedics need to be called it can be around six or seven.
One of those days that was high on the stress scale was when Pierce was working at East. An elderly male accompanying his grandson to school collapsed on the pavement. He was rushed to her office, where she had to get the man breathing again. She tried administering CPR but it wasn’t enough. Soon she had the AED machine in her hands. She charged up the defibrillator gave him a shock and he was breathing again. They called the paramedics and he was saved.
This is not the only time Pierce has saved a life; she has saved many more, some even at West. But saving lives isn’t the only thing she does, she also helps with less stressful tasks, although they are equally as important. For instance, she is tasked with seeing all 1,850 students at West annually to ensure they are healthy.
Kaleb Kuehn, a Special Education teacher at West, interacts with Pierce a lot due to the medical needs of his students. “On average she visits three times a day,” he says. “There are specific things that can only be provided by a nurse or somebody that is licensed, such as medications and help with feeding tubes and some paperwork. It’s also probably one of the most valuable positions in the school…she’s always on her toes,” Kuehn says.
Pierce had to work hard to get all of the necessary qualifications to become a nurse, which includes earning a Bachelors in Nursing as well as a Bachelors in Public Health. Pierce says that working as school nurse was not necessarily her dream job; she initially wanted to be an Emergency Room nurse. But after some consideration, she began working in schools in 2011. Getting the summer off is a perk of her job. Before coming to West in 2015, she worked at East, Hanshew, Romig, Mears, Dimond, Service, and Kasuun Elementary. She also spent time visiting 84 different schools throughout Alaska.