For as long as most students at OIHS can remember, the small room adjacent to the front office, labeled “Health” with a blue painted door, has been dark, unoccupied, and mysterious. Late this September, however, many were shocked to see the room finally open, lit, and occupied: school nurse Cindy Sapp had moved in.
Contrary to the original assumptions of some students at the high school, Sapp is not a new faculty member – but she is nevertheless a new face. Many students, up until now, have been unaware that the high school even has a nurse, largely due to the fact that Sapp has not occupied an office in the building until this year. However, Sapp has actually been part of the staff, and available for students, for two years now.
Far from Orcas Island, Sapp grew up in Connecticut, attending Boston College and working in Maryland before finally migrating west. Even at a young age, she had her career in mind: “I had always wanted to be a nurse, since I was little, and just continued with that,” she said. It was this passion, as well as a love of children, that drove her to pursue a career in pediatric nursing. While she had worked in various areas of children’s hospitals, it was not until she had young children in school that Sapp got into school nursing; the job enabled her to work in the same school as her own kids, and follow a similar schedule. “I just really enjoy the school atmosphere,” she said. Sapp remained as a school nurse for many years, working in the Renton School District for seven years and in the Bellevue School District for 12. Her positions allowed her to work with children across all grade levels – elementary, middle, high, and alternative school. She has found that between grade levels, smaller children tend to experience more physical injuries, while for high schoolers it is primarily social and emotional. In general, she most enjoys that her career allows her to form relationships with the kids, and support them with various issues.
Over two years ago, Sapp applied for an open position on Orcas Island, finishing out the school year in Bellevue before making the move to the island. She spent her first year commuting between Lopez and Orcas. Last year, an increase in hours on Orcas led to her to transitioning to a full-time position in Orcas Island School District, “which has been really nice,” she said, “not to have to commute to Lopez. I liked Lopez, but the commute was rough.” Here, she finds there is a greater sense of community in the schools than in Bellevue, where schools are much larger. Here she is able to see students and faculty outside of school as well. However, she also finds it challenging; while in Bellevue, she had access to more resources, including other school nurses to consult. Here she is more isolated, with the nearest school nurses in Anacortes and San Juan.
Just this year, she has finally increased her presence in the high school by spending time (Monday through Thursday, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.), in an actual office in the building. Sapp notices that faculty in the high school are now more able to access her to be a part of students’ lives. “I think some people didn’t even know there was a school nurse over there,” she said. Her goal, ultimately, is to be more of a support resource for students in the high school, and Sapp would like students to know that she is not only available for physical injuries, but for medical questions, social and emotional support, growth and development questions, doctor references, help managing an ongoing illness, and more, under complete confidentiality. “It’s for anything,” Sapp said. “Not just for if you need a band-aid.”