For those who follow this blog, you know that my niece, Carly, survived the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Carly, her peers, and school community have returned to school in a new and unwelcome reality. The wounds are raw, the trauma is palpable and the students and staff are easily triggered which is impacting any return to “normalcy.” The national conversation that has grown from this tragic event continues to unfold and spread, with both sides of the gun control issue vocalizing their positions.
In the days after the shooting, I promised my sister and my niece that I would do whatever I could from a public health perspective to help. I made a big promise, to them and in the memory of my late father, also the survivor of a mass shooting. My dad was mostly silent about his personal tragedy, that took the lives of his mother, father, grandmother and ten neighbors in 1949. He was 12 years old. Consider that thought for a moment. I shared in prior blogs that both my niece and my father ironically survived by hiding in closets during the rampages which occurred 70 years apart. How can I not be in action given my personal family history?
Generational trauma is an unwelcome legacy that I battle internally and externally. I have found an antidote that also builds my resilience response. It is to be in action for the “greater good.” Putting my efforts into something bigger than myself is the driving force in my professional and personal life. Out of the heartache, loss, and despair, I have become a school nurse activist.
One of my first steps was reaching out to the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (NJAAP) and asked to meet with their leadership team. I actually did not know what I would say if they agreed, but I asked anyway. I felt compelled to speak with them on behalf of my family and my work as a school nurse looking to improve communications with pediatricians on behalf of student safety. We see the same students, we have an inside view of some of the pressing issues that may be at the root cause of school violence, but historically we do not share information. Change does not happen in a vacuum, we must work together for the greater good and to work together, we need to have relationships.
To my surprise, NJAAP not only agreed to talk with me, they invited me to attend a meeting of their Governmental Affairs Committee. I was eager and thankful to have a seat at their table. I was not a complete outsider with NJAAP as I have worked with them to bring educational programs to my school communities. But this was a different “ask.” I initially struggled to frame what I was asking, and in preparation for the meeting, I dug into the research and reached out to trusted advisor colleagues who helped me frame my “ask.” One of the most helpful conversations I had was with a Twitter friend - someone who I have never met or spoken with, but follow on Twitter, a self-proclaimed #Tweetiatrician. I sent him a private message and explained my predicament. He was professionally generous and not only helped me understand my audience but also suggested that the meeting be more a conversation than a presentation. He suggested that I simply ask how pediatricians could work with schools to prevent gun violence. Bingo, I had my “ask.”
The meeting was held in the evening and included several dynamic pediatricians, the CEO, and a Program Manager from NJAAP. We had a lively conversation, grappling with the issues that are most challenging and seemingly insurmountable, but must be addressed. The discussion focused on how pediatricians and school nurses can work together to prevent school violence. School nurses and pediatricians are natural partners that can work together to improve our communication and deepen our relationships to improve health outcomes for children. But results demand action, and this is just the beginning.
A few weeks later, NJAAP came to me with its “ask.” Would I contribute to their upcoming newsletter to be distributed to their membership? I was honored to participate and continue the conversation of how pediatricians and school nurses can join forces for the greater good. Here is a link to my article found in their most recent newsletter:
My article is called:
Pediatricians + School Nurses = Powerful Partners