by Bobby Anderson
After nearly 33 years in nursing, Stephanie Waller Wojczynski, RN, went to the Northwest Classen senior prom this spring before graduating in May.
She wasn’t earning a diploma or degree, those had already come in bunches over the last few decades.
Waller Wojczynski’s commencement was the beginning of her retirement after 18 years of school nursing.
“So far I’m really enjoying it,” she said of her retirement. “I’ve had a lot of time to do things I haven’t been able to. One big thing is my mom moved in with us. She needed extra care and it’s given me time to take care of her so it’s a win-win situation.”
She became an LPN in 1984 and then transitioned to RN in 1989. She earned her BSN in 2000.
“I kind of went the long and winding road,” she laughed. “From the time I was a little kid I always wanted to be a nurse. My mom still has a picture I drew when I was five years old in kindergarten of what I wanted to be.”
School nursing came into her life at the right time.
She originally entered Oklahoma City Public Schools in 2000 when her husband was ill and unable to watch the kids.
The school nursing hours allowed her to be free when her kids were out of school.
“After I had been doing it for a few years and he passed I remarried and found I really, really liked it because it’s a lot more challenging than anybody would guess. It’s amazingly challenging,” she said. “Essentially, for a lot of these kids, we are their only health care provider. A lot are uninsured … and with the Affordable Care Act the working poor can hardly afford that. “And we have those who might not be in the country legally and that’s not my job to figure out. My job is to take care of the kids.”
The kids were always the reason she showed up every day.
From the funny to the tragic, school nursing ran the gamut for Waller Wojczynski.
Her first year as a school nurse brought her into the courtroom. A middle school girl came into her office one day and told her that her mother was selling her to older men for drug money.
She immediately notified the police. A few months later she was summoned to court after the biological father sued for custody.
“That was stressful,” she said.
During flu seasons, she could see upwards of 40 children a day.
One fall afternoon she was called to her elementary school where the entire office staff was home sick with the flu.
“There was one clerk working the office and there was a line of kids down the hall,” she said. “We sent home more than 100 kids that day with fevers over 100.”
Waller Wojczynski often split her time between several schools. She spent eight years at NW Classen.
As the health care provider for literally thousands, you can imagine the paperwork.
One spring break she worked almost an entire week entering shot records at home.
“I’m not complaining about having to do it at home because that freed me up to take care of the kids when I was at school,” she said. “The most important thing was taking care of the physical needs of the kids,” she said. “It was drop everything if a kid came in with a physical need but it was crunch time to try to get that paperwork done.”
Prom was a chance to see many of the kids she had nursed their entire school career.
“The students treated me like I was a rock star,” she laughed.
As May wound down so did her 33-year nursing career.
She broke down the NW Classen nurse office one last time and broke down herself more than a couple times.
“That was kind of a mixture of sadness and laughter because I kept coming across things that would remind me of funny stories,” she said. “The feelings are indescribable really. I was kind of overwhelmed those last few days thinking this is the last time I would be here.”
Coming up, she plans on visiting her three kids. Her oldest son, 39, lives in Portland, Maine and is an IT professional with Dell Computers. He and his wife have her only two grandkids, twin boys.
One daughter, 26, and a son, 22, are also out on their own working on their careers.
Later this month she plans a trip to her hometown in Michigan. Her husband’s mother also turns 96.
Friends will be met, dinners will be had.
As for the future, Waller Wojczynski sees herself giving a lot of flu shots this fall.
She’s toying with the idea of a hospice role.
But school nursing will always have a special place in her heart.