by Terry Rogers
Sue Smith has found nursing to be a rewarding career and has discovered that working with elementary school students is what she enjoys the most. She began her school nurse career at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, where she worked for 15 years, then transferred to Milford Central Academy before returning to Mispillion Elementary School in 2013.
“Elementary school nursing seems to be my favorite,” Smith said. “I enjoy helping our young students learn self-care, the importance of getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep, healthy eating habits, 2 hours or less of screen time a day and the importance of doing the best they can in school and life. I advocate for our children to receive medical care and outside services when needed. I participate in the education plan for 504 and IEP accommodations. I have also helped organize outside services for our students at the public health dental clinic and local dentists and physicians.”
Smith was born in Milford Memorial Hospital and says it was bittersweet saying goodbye to the facility when the new Bayhealth Sussex Campus opened in February 2019. Her children were born there and her first nursing position was in the operating room there. Smith has lived in the Milford area all of her life, growing up outside Frederica and moving to Milford when she married her husband, Genie Smith.
In 1976, Smith graduated from Milford High School and attended Delaware Technical and Community College where she earned her Practical Nursing degree. In 1983, she returned to DTCC and earned her Associate in Nursing degree in 1985. She received her nursing license soon after her graduation. Because she wanted more opportunities in nursing, Smith earned a bachelor’s in nursing from Wilmington University in 1995 and, because she also believes in lifelong learning, earned her Master’s in Elementary school Counseling from Wilmington University in 2003.
“My career has taken me on different paths, that is the great thing about nursing,” Smith said. “Nursing offers many opportunities. I have worked in different medical facilities, including for Dr. Nam Han, Dickinson Medical Group, Health South freestanding medical center, Milford Memorial Hospital surgical department, Bayhealth South Campus and will celebrate my 24th year as a Milford School District nurse this year.” Smith is not only a Delaware Certified School Nurse, she is also a Nationally Certified School Nurse. For state certification, she had to complete course work through the Department of Education and be mentored for four years. To be nationally certified, Smith had to take a test given by the National Certification Board which encompasses care of a children between 5 and 21.
In her own family, Smith has dealt with medical challenges. Her oldest son will celebrate being 19 years cancer free this year after being diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. Her youngest son was in a motor vehicle accident in 2008 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Both sons are successful in their careers. Her youngest son is married and has a daughter, Brooklyn, who will be four in May.
As part of her responsibilities at Mispillion Elementary, Smith works with various health professionals throughout the state to provide additional services for the children. She has arranged for Dr. Ahl and O’Connor to present dental health information to third graders as well as Delaware Smile Check, a program that brings a dental hygienist into the school and, with parent permission, performs an evaluation on student’s teeth. The program also helps arrange dental services for parents.
“We have Vision to Learn, a van that comes in to set up vision equipment and an optometrist does an eye examination, providing glasses for those who need them,” Smith said. “Our third graders participate in the Dental Society poster contest each year. I believe every opportunity to promote self-care and wellness is what I love about my role as the school nurse. Making a difference in the lives of children every day. My fulfilment of my career is when I am out in the community and someone says to me “Weren’t you my school nurse?” That, to me, shows that I did make a difference, because they remember me and they feel comfortable asking if I was their nurse.”