Chris stands for all of these things not only in words but in action. She volunteers tirelessly for those who are marginalized and she speaks for those who have no voice. I admire her relentless volunteerism in addition to her contribution to school nursing practice. Chris is the epitome of a team player and I volunteer to be her cheerleader and biggest fan!
We finally met in person this past summer at NASN Conference in Baltimore.
Chris and me
Not Throwing Away My Shot
by Chris Amidon BSN, RN, NCSN
Everyone knows the hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” by now. This show changed my life in 2015 when my daughter’s friend from theater camp invited her to this groundbreaking show when it was still in previews. It sounded bizarre to me. Why were people were raving about a hip-hop musical based on the life of a Founding Father?
But the infectious tunes and the story of a scrappy immigrant who worked relentlessly caught on in an instant. My family found there was a Hamilton song for every occasion in our lives. The themes in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics can apply to anyone whose passion for what they do feels urgent: “When my time is up, have I done enough?” “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” “I’m not throwing away my shot!”
These are themes that inspire me as a leader in school nursing. In these tumultuous times, are we doing enough to keep staff and students safe at school? Are we preparing them with honest, science-based health education that can guide their decisions through their teen and early adult years? Are we addressing the epidemic of mental health issues that young people and their families face today?
I am in my 14th year as a high school nurse and coordinator of health services for our district. When I started we would staff to “where the need was highest.” In time, I was able to convince our administrators that the need was significant in every school. We now have had a full-time, skilled RN in every school all day, every day. Our school board members have demonstrated they prioritize the health and safety of our children.
When I started at our high school, teen pregnancy rates were astonishingly high — as many as 15-16 young women became pregnant each year (in a school with just over 300 girls enrolled). This motivated me to work to improve sexuality education, which at the time was seen as controversial. We established a broad-based committee, worked together as a community, addressed questions and concerns openly, and made our health curriculum more accurate and evidence-based. It was an important step and we have seen good results.
I try to say “yes” to opportunities that present themselves, even when they aren’t in my natural skill set. A local newspaper offered me a regular health column a few years ago. Our school nursing staff contributed stories on a rotating basis, which elevated the visibility of what we do and positioned us as health experts in our community.
Saying “yes” to becoming involved in my state school nurses’ organization led to me serving on the board, being named the School Nurse of the Year, and learning how to manage and create social media and websites — all of which are far outside of my comfort zone. Today, I am honored to serve Indiana as its director on the board of the National Association of School Nurses, which has led to countless opportunities to advocate for school nursing on a national level (and led to the closest, most intense friendships I’ve ever had).
The prevalence of mental health conditions has been the greatest change I have seen in my practice, which caused me to seek out additional education and training. Eating disorders, self-injury, depression, anxiety, and suicide are life-or-death problems and are as critical as calculating an insulin dosage or administering epinephrine during anaphylaxis. We must improve access to mental health care.
There are other issues that have required a passionate response from our health services, including support of LGBTQ+ and immigrant students, and those who face violence and other adverse experiences at home and at school.
Who lives, who dies, who tells their story?
Nurses have a moral imperative to act when we see injustice and systemic failures. The challenges we face are daunting.
It’s time to “rise up” and take our best shot — we are experts on the front lines of children’s health care, and our voices need to be heard.
- Chris Amidon, BSN, RN, NCSN