Tag Archives: school nurse

Meet Our Staff: Nerissa Conley

Nerissa Conley, RN, PEL-CSN, is our full-time School Nurse.

conleyNurse Conley worked as a nurse clinician on the medical surgical-oncology floor at Advocate South Suburban Hospital before returning to school to become a licensed school nurse. She worked as a school nurse in the Blue Island School District for several years and then as a nurse supervisor in a Chicago Public Schools specialized services school before coming to Morgan Park Academy in 2015.

Nurse Conley holds a B.S. in Dietetics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, a B.S. in Nursing from Purdue University, and a Professional Educator’s License as a Certified School Nurse from the State of Illinois.


What do you enjoy most about Nursing?

Helping others. I love helping people feel better and supporting people in their time of need. Everyone has a moment in life when they struggle with something (physically, emotionally, etc.). It is very rewarding to feel like I might have helped someone overcome a challenge in some way.

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ADHD or Sleep Deprivation?

Some of the most common issues that I hear both parents and teachers report having with students is that the child may be easily distracted, excessively tired, has difficulty staying focused, and has issues with hyperactivity. Once parents report these symptoms to their pediatricians, a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often suspected. But what if your child doesn’t have ADHD; what if they are simply sleepy?

NurseWith increased accessibility to electronic devices (smart phones, televisions, tablets, etc.) in their bedrooms, children’s brains are constantly stimulated and the attainment of quality sleep is decreasing. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that school age children get at least 10-12 hours of sleep a night. However, a 2014 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that school age children actually get an average of only 7-9 hours. According to NHLBI, loss of sleep of over several days, even if only at 1-2 hours per night, can impair body function as if you have not slept at all for 1-2 days! Sleep is important because it helps the brain store and process information that it received during the day, repair heart and blood vessels, and maintain the body’s hormonal balance which controls things like body weight, emotions, immunity, etc. Studies have shown that sleep deprived students are unable to focus, emotionally unstable, and often become hyperactive to combat fatigue. Coincidentally, these symptoms of sleepiness mimic the most common symptoms associated with ADHD.

So what can you do to help rule out chronic sleepiness before we begin to suspect ADHD? Dr. Darius Loghmanee, director of Advocate Christ’s Children’s Sleep Network, has made a few recommendations. First, Make sure your child is attaining quality sufficient amounts of sleep by setting appropriate and consistent bedtimes and adhering to them. A bedtime should allow for at least 10-12 hours of sleep based on their wake time, with a cushion for unexpected events. Ask yourself what time does your child get ready for bed and what time do they actually fall asleep; these are two different things. Delayed onset of sleep decreases total sleep time. In today’s society we are busier than ever and children are often doing homework right up until bedtime. We cannot forget that children need time to unwind and relax before falling asleep just like adults. A bedtime routine helps the body relax and recognize that it is time for bed. Second, children lie awake at night like adults worrying about their task list or social issues for the day to come. To help alleviate this issue, try giving your child a forum outside of the bedroom to talk about their day, worries, successes, to-do lists, etc. to avoid having them obsess over them at bedtime. Third, turn off (or better yet remove) televisions, games, tablets, phones, etc. from the bedrooms as these are stimulating and only increase the time it takes to fall asleep. Bright lights from devices suppress the secretion of the hormone that makes the body fall asleep. Even as adults we are guilty of having to check every notification when our devices are nearby. Also, the usage of electronics is deceptively time consuming as many times a quick check of email, social media, or a game turns into thirty minutes or more of texting, playing, or internet surfing. Finally, listen to your child sleep. Do they snore, cough, etc.? Snoring and coughing throughout the night may be an indication of sleep apnea or another obstructive sleep disorder which may require medical intervention if not related to a cold or congestion.

A study published in a 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics found that school-age children who were given an extra hour of sleep each night showed an improvement in emotional stability, impulsive behavior, and a reduction in day-time sleepiness. Sleep is a multi-faceted topic that has a profound impact on our daily lives. I hope this inspires you to evaluate the quality of sleep and sleep habits of your children to hopefully improve their daily function in the classroom, and to possibly identify those students who may require further evaluation.

By Nerissa Conley, R.N., PEL-CSN

Ms. Conley is Morgan Park Academy’s school nurse.

10 Ways to Avoid Catching a Cold and Other Viruses

Cold and flu season isn’t far away, and with a new virus, Enterovirus D68, grabbing headlines for its unusually high rate of child illness and hospitalization, this seems like a good time for a refresher course about virus prevention.

Help keep the Morgan Park Academy community healthy this school year by practicing these 10 ways to avoid catching a cold or another virus, both at home and at school:

1. Stay Home

The first thing to keep in mind: Keep students home from school if they are ill. (Symptoms include cough, sore throat, wheezing, diarrhea, vomiting, or a fever over 100 degrees.) This is important not only for the sick student, but also for the other members of our school community.

2. Wash Your Hands

Everyone should wash their hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for about 20 seconds, which is the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Rinse well with warm water and dry with a paper towel. MPA teachers in the Lower School always make time for student hand-washing before lunch or snack and after using the bathroom.

3. Use Hand Sanitizers

If soap and water is not available, using an alcohol-based sanitizer or wipe is a good alternative. Most of our classrooms have hand sanitizer available for students.

4. Hands Off

Help us teach children to not touch their nose, eyes, or mouth when they have dirty hands.

5. Muffle Coughs and Sneezes

Cover coughs and sneezes. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it in the trash, and immediately wash hands. We teach Lower School students to do the “alligator” cough or sneeze. Sneezing into the crook of the elbow prevents germs from collecting on hands for transfer to common surfaces.

6. Don’t Share

As much as we pride ourselves on our caring and sharing environment, staying healthy means students should not share items such as food, drinks, lipstick, lip balm, ear buds, gym clothes, gloves, or hats with their friends at school.

7. Keep the Environment Clean

Students should clean out their backpacks and lockers regularly. Use a wet cloth or sanitary wipe to remove debris and rotting food.

8. Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect

Frequently disinfect common surfaces such as desks, sinks, drinking fountains, computers, doorknobs, and toys.

9. Boost Your Immune System

Get plenty of sleep and exercise, avoid stress, and eat a well-balanced diet. Drink lots of water!

10. Get Immunized

The Centers for Disease Control recommends flu shots for the entire family. We encourage all members of the MPA community to stop by our flu shot clinic on Friday, Oct. 17, during our Relay for Life event.

By Rebecca McGovern, R.N., B.S.N.

Nurse McGovern is our school nurse. She has worked in the school environment for 16 years after spending a decade on active duty with the United States Air Force, with assignments worldwide.