Beginning her nursing career at age 19, Tammy Haney, school nurse at Trout Primary, has seen it all. Her first job after completing her Associates of Nursing degree at Angelina College was at Conroe Regional in the operating room where she would take care of patients with all kinds of ailments some even from gunshot wounds or stabbings. From there she remained at the Nacogdoches Surgery Center until she hung up her scrubs and became a school nurse three years ago.
“It was a good time to make a change. I live in Lufkin and was interested in the job. In Lufkin we are fortunate to have Jan Fulbright as the director. She is an excellent leader. We have a network of nursing staff that work together,” said Mrs. Haney.
Mrs. Haney was a 1979 graduate of Lufkin High School, although, she was born in Senora, California way up in the mountains. Her family moved to Lufkin when she was ten years old because her father was transferred to Lufkin to work for the US Forest Service.
It was in high school when she developed a love for healthcare and participated in the Health Coop class. Her father had been ill, and she helped take care of him, which in turn gave her a desire to become a nurse.
She said, “My father had health issues, and I would take care of him. That’s how I got into healthcare. You see a need and how you can help people. I graduated high school when I was 17 and 19 when I finished nursing school.”
She was told she was too young to be a nurse and that she wouldn’t make it.
She said, “I think I did it just to prove that I could.”
She arrives at Trout Primary a little after 7 a.m. and gets the medications ready to give students who take them daily. The students eat breakfast, and then come by her room. She has a diabetic student who comes in at 8 a.m. and brings his meter. This particular student has a Dexcom that is a device that continuously monitors his glucose. Her phone receives alerts from the device indicating if the student’s blood sugar is too low or too high. Mrs. Haney then goes to the student in his classroom to give him candy or water depending on the reading.
She said, “The best thing about the job is that I enjoy interacting with kids. I can help them with an issue and give them the medical help they need. If they need medicine, I’m the first person they see before school. I like to send them on a positive note so they’ll have a good day. I want to be a positive impact.”
Another important part of her job is education. Because of students who have medical issues like diabetes, Mrs. Haney likes to show videos or do demonstrations to make the students aware of what some of their classmates are going through.
“I want them to understand why maybe he gets a snack to regulate his blood sugar in the middle of the day and they don’t. Sometimes he has to take his pizza or cupcake and eat at the end of the day. I have activities during November for Diabetes Awareness Month,” she said.
Another way to help students understand that she is there to help is she does her best to make coming to the nurses’ office a non-threatening experience. Some students are terrified so she makes sure that her appearance doesn’t set her apart from the other teachers.
She said, “I don’t wear scrubs. Some kids are scared to death of the doctor. I go to their classrooms dressed like everyone else so they know I’m there to help. They’re only interaction sometimes with a doctor’s office is if they’re really sick or need shots.”
Not only does she treat headaches, stomach aches and the occasional Skittle up the nose, Nurse Haney makes sure that the students are tested for hearing and vision.
“Mr.Yost from the Lufkin Evening Lion’s Club brings a Spot screen camera that is much better than an eye chart. We screen the kindergarten students, and it tells us much more,” she said.
This type of screening makes it easier for special needs students where it might be more difficult to get an accurate reading. Students are tested every year usually in October.
She said, “ Sometimes students with behavioral problems may have vision problems. Sometimes students just sit real quiet in the classroom. When the students get glasses, I always make sure to make a big deal about it so they’ll be comfortable.”
Trout Primary is also the school for the primary students who are deaf or hearing impaired. Mrs. Haney loves to go in the deaf ed classroom and see what the students are learning.
She said, “In a way, my job is the same as working in the OR. I’m a patient advocate. I speak up for kids and look out for their health and safety. I enjoy it. I can make a difference. I can call a parent and they are very receptive. They appreciate that someone is taking care of their child.”
When not busy at work, Mrs. Haney enjoys time with her family. She has two adult children and her grandchild attends Slack Elementary. She and her husband met after high school and have been married almost 37 years. Mrs. Haney cross-stitches, works in the yard, and plants flowerbeds. She and her daughter recently travelled to London and Paris for her nieces’ wedding.
Mrs. Haney loves her job because it’s not the same every day. You have to be prepared for what may come in the door. As a child came in to give some forms to Mrs. Haney and get an icepack, she couldn’t help but say, “I just love those little ones, they’re so sweet.”
Mrs. Haney, we love that you chose nursing as your career because it’s your compassion for students that makes all the difference. Thank you.