East Coweta Middle School nurse Rhonda Smits has been named Georgia’s 2015 School Nurse of the Year.
Smits received the honor at the July 16 meeting of the Georgia Association of School Nurses in Athens. Smits has been a registered nurse for 33 years and has served as school nurse at ECMS for 11 years.
“This is the first time the Georgia Association’s Nurse of the Year recognition has been bestowed on a Coweta County school nurse,” said Coweta school system spokesman Dean Jackson.
Smits began the school year on Aug. 5, during East Coweta’s pre-school orientation.
“A steady stream of students and parents dropped by her office to pick up allergy forms, consult with her about ongoing asthma treatments or talk about the management of epipens, inhalers, or other medications – regular duties of a nurse in a school with over 700 students,” Jackson said.
Smits said she was surprised and honored to receive the nurse of the year award.
Smits was nominated by ECMS counsellor Tiffany Busby. Jackson said many of Smits’ colleagues and students wrote letters of recommendation for her, as did student nurses from the University of West Georgia who had worked with her.
“This award recognizes professionals like Rhonda Smits for exemplary care within the speciality of school nursing. I could not imagine a better choice for the Georgia school nurse of the year,” said Sally Millians, Coweta County School System’s head nurse. “Rhonda is a very dedicated professional, a strong student advocate and very passionate about the people in her care. She goes above and beyond in everything she does.”
Smits received her nursing training at Mobile College, and worked in hospitals such as Southern Regional for 22 years. She decided to move to school nursing following the death of her daughter, Shelly. Before entering nursing Smits had considered becoming a teacher and she felt that working with children in a school setting realized that dream and honored her daughter’s memory, Jackson said.
“I feel like I have the best of both worlds here,” said Smits. “I love nursing and this school, and I love working with these children. Every day they come in and say something that tickles my fancy. It’s never boring.”
Smits will represent school nurses state-wide through 2015.
School nurses serve Coweta County students in all 31 schools. In 2013-14, Coweta’s school nurses responded to over 96,000 student illnesses and injuries in schools, administered over 29,000 special procedures and helped manage medications for thousands of students each month, and provided students screenings, parent consultations during teacher conferences, and classroom and professional training for students and colleagues throughout the year.