It was seventeen years ago that Natalie Tapley, MS, RN was an ER nurse at Children’s Hospital. With a real passion for others, she currently serves children as a school nurse for three Mid-Del schools.

by Vickie Jenkins – Writer/Photographer

When children are at the tender age of seven or eight, some of them are sure they know exactly what they will do when they grow up. That is the case for Natalie Tapley, MS, RN school nurse for three Mid-Del public schools; Tinker Elementary, Ridgecrest Elementary and Kerr Middle school. Born in Stillwater, OK and several moves in her early years, Natalie ended up in Holdenville, OK, her parents’ hometown. “I always wanted to be a teacher; I have always been a nurturer. As I got older, I knew the medical profession was for me because I could care for others and teach others at the same time,” Natalie commented.
Natalie has been a nurse since 2003. “I attended OU for my bachelors, graduated in 2003, went back for my masters in nursing education at OU and graduated with my MS in 2010. My first job as an RN was at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, working in the ER. My first job as a school nurse was when I worked as a contract nurse for Shawnee Public schools one day a week for a semester. I assisted getting files and individual health service plans up to date at Shawnee High School for one semester several years ago. I adjuncted for UCO and took nursing students to Mid-Del for their community clinical for two years. I knew that one day, I wanted to be a full-time school nurse. It was last spring, which the timing seemed to be just right. I got the job and I couldn’t be happier. I absolutely love what I do!”

Are the requirements for a school nurse different than a nurse in a hospital? “Yes, you must have a school nurse certification. Only an RN can get this certification that is obtained from the Board of Education. A school nurse must also have their BLS,” Natalie replied.
Asking Natalie if she enjoyed being a nurse at a hospital or a school better, she replied, “At this point in my life, I prefer a school setting. It allows me more time to be with my family but still challenges me and allows me to be with all sorts of kids. It’s completely different than the hospital. There are no resources readily available like nurses at hospitals have. A school nurse must have strong assessment skills and strong critical thinking skills. Although we have other school nurses we can call for advice, we are ultimately the one making decisions for our kids in the school setting based on protocol from the state Department of Education and policies and procedures from the district. We fall under guidelines from the department of education and the Board of Nursing.”
“I think a nurse needs to have some specific qualities. A nurse needs to understand empathy and practice it. They need to show compassion and genuine caring. They need a true feeling of wanting to help others, making the best decisions for his or her patients. A good nurse will treat their patient as if they were their own family member. If a nurse continues to think like this, they will always provide quality care. Last but not least, nurses should treat others as a person rather than a room number.”
“Being a nurse is very rewarding. I have worked from the bedside as a nursing instructor and professor and as a school nurse. I can honestly say with all three, the biggest reward is when I can be an advocate for them and show them how much I really care,” Natalie said. “On the other hand, the biggest challenge would be the lack of funding for school nurses in general and it is not mandated by the state for each school to have a school nurse. With the growing number of medical needs in youth, it would be wonderful to have a school nurse in each school, every day of the school year and to have the support from the state. It would make the parents, teachers, principals and support staffs feel safer,” she added.
Describing herself, Natalie said, “I am a wife and mom first. I like caring for others, having a little control and fun along the way. I like to learn and like to have a voice for those that can’t. I am outspoken and passionate about what I believe in.” If you were to sum up your life in one word, what would it be? “Blessed,” Natalie replied.