Putting Health First
SCHOOLS | April 23, 2020
Putting Health First

Highlighting our Nurses for their Commitment to our School Communities

This week, CPS is highlighting its amazing food service workers, custodians, security guards, and nurses who have selflessly served their school communities during the closure. Check our blog for a new story each day.

Over the past month, Kathleen Keaty has often found herself thinking about the beginning of her career as a CPS nurse 13 years ago. While she joined the district with experience working in intensive care units, performing house visits, and even supporting patients with chronic health conditions at a local children’s hospital, she quickly found that working as a school nurse was unlike anything she had ever done before. So, she got to work learning as much as she could about how to best support student wellness through the lens of education. Now that she has to approach her role differently, she finds herself learning new skills all over again. 

“Something I’ve focused on during this time is challenging myself to make connections with my students and their families in new ways, because we want them to know that we do care about them and we want to support them,” she said. “I’ve been using school websites to provide resources for students like never before, and am also making sure I’m using technology for office hours and other ways that parents can touch base with me.” 

Parent engagement is also important to Cyntia Lopez, a certified school nurse who has been with the district since 2001, which is why she has prioritized staying up-to-date on new developments related to COVID-19. By doing this, she is able to both answer parent concerns directly and also support school administrators who need help responding to health-related inquiries. While public health is something she has always been passionate about, she says knowing she is uniquely equipped to serve Latin school communities during this time is especially meaningful to her. 

“Serving schools in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood is amazing because I love the populations I work with and am able to support them as a Spanish speaker myself,” she said. “It has been wonderful to work with the principals as well because they are always willing to meet with me and work together to make sure all families have the information and resources they need.” 

For Ms. Keaty, one of the best parts of being a certified school nurse is hearing her students at Hampton Elementary on the Southwest Side say: “Hi, Nurse Keaty!” whenever she sees them in the hallway. Over time, those small interactions lead to deeper relationships with students, and she says leveraging those relationships to ensure that students know how to keep themselves healthy is crucial. 

“The educational part of this whole situation, in a way, boils down to the same things we’ve always been talking about as nurses, such as not spreading germs by washing your hands frequently,” she said. “We hope that our students will follow the guidelines while they’re at home and know that it will be so nice when everyone is back together at school again.”

Appreciation is at the heart of both nurses’ roles. For Ms. Lopez, as a CPS parent, it’s an appreciation that she can balance her responsibilities while still supporting her children in their learning. For Ms. Keaty, it’s an appreciation for all of her colleagues saving lives in emergency rooms and intensive care units across the city. Both women know their role in keeping Chicago’s students healthy and safe is more important now than ever before.