The Incredible Impact of School Nurses


School nurse helps a child with type 1 diabetes test their blood sugar

School nurses are essential to a child’s type 1 diabetes (T1D) care plan, particularly in elementary and middle school. At Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA, that person is Nurse Whyte.

Part of the family

Mary Raine Whyte, CCRN, CDCES, is a middle school nurse at Woodward Academy. The incredible impact she has made on many T1D families in her 24-year tenure has not gone unnoticed.

The Klumok Family
The Klumok Family

“Nurse Whyte was my favorite nurse,” said Bobby Klumok, now a high schooler. “She kept me safe and allowed me to perform at my academic best.”

Bobby’s mom, Lisa, agrees. “No other nurse compared to Nurse Whyte! She not only took care of those with T1D, but taught the teachers about it and explained the academic issues of high and low blood sugar,” she said.

The Hayes Family
The Hayes Family

For Monica Hayes, Nurse Whyte was more than a staff member. “Nurse Whyte immediately became a part of our family,” Monica said. “She attends many local T1D events and continues to connect families, best practices, and experiences.”

Monica’s daughter, Taylor, recognizes how beneficial it was to have such an involved nurse when she was in middle school. “School nurses are another set of eyes for parents,” she said. “They make us feel comfortable being away from them.”

Support from day one

After a child is diagnosed with T1D, the return to school is often nerve-wracking and overwhelming for parents. School nurses provide essential support when families are at their most vulnerable. 

“I sit them down, allow them to grieve, and just tell them it’s going to be okay,” Whyte said. “I also try to get them aligned with another T1D parent. That support is pivotal.”

School nurses also focus on managing a child’s T1D so that their school day is like everyone else’s. “Being in school is about learning, growing, and being social with friends,” said Kelly Alladina, RN, CDCES, Program Manager, Community Screening and Clinical Trials Education at JDRF. “School nurses help with diabetes management so students can focus on school—not their T1D.”

More than band-aids and cough drops

School nurses are responsible for promoting the health and well-being of everyone in the school community. “Being a school nurse is more than band-aids and cough drops,” Whyte said. “We administer first aid, emergency care and medications, conduct health assessments, manage chronic conditions like T1D, ensure immunization compliance, develop health promotion programs, and maintain accurate health records.”

And it doesn’t come without challenges—a lot of them. 

“Many schools have thousands of kids under one roof, and the nurse can see hundreds of ‘patients’ daily,” Alladina said. “This can make it challenging to learn each disease state in depth, especially with changes in technology and treatment, in T1D and other conditions.” 

There is also a need for more school nurses and substitutes, which leads to a high burnout rate among the profession.  Despite this, many school nurses share a special bond with their T1D students, and JDRF offers resources to make their job a little easier.

JDRF champions school nurses

Nurse Whyte presenting a check to JDRF from Woodward Academy in 2018
Nurse Whyte presenting a check to JDRF from Woodward Academy in 2018

“There are many ways that JDRF supports school nurses,” Alladina said. “Our chapters partner with school districts to provide resources and to make connections within the T1D community. Local JDRF chapters also invite school nurses to participate in One Walk and other events with their students!”

Nurse Whyte is grateful for JDRF’s support and research initiatives. “JDRF-funded research helps everyone living with T1D, which makes my job easier and keeps kids in class longer. The technology JDRF helped advance also allows students and parents to rest a little easier.”

JDRF thanks all school nurses for their tireless efforts to ensure all children living with T1D are safe and healthy at school!


Editor’s note: The author would like to thank her son’s middle school nurse, Jody, for her support immediately following his diagnosis and for instilling in him confidence in managing his T1D.