Joanne Sloan named Connecticut School Nurse of the Year

From health education of students and staff alike, to treatment of daily ailments, playground falls, or students with more serious medical needs, Jane Ryan School nurse Joanne Sloan has her hands full. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

After a 40-year career as a nurse — she’s worked in offices, hospitals and in three different countries — her favorite place is Jane Ryan School, she said.

“I love the elementary school children — I love looking after them,” Sloan said. “It’s become a dream job. Even if you offered me some plum job somewhere else, I wouldn’t go.”

Sloan, a registered nurse, was just recently named Connecticut School Nurse of the Year by the Association of School Nurses of Connecticut. She joked that she has no idea how she received the honor, but those who work with her had plenty to say.

“Nurse Sloan makes a difference with our students, families, staff, and the community at large,” Jane Ryan’s principal, Mary Ellen Bolton, said. “She does this always with a caring heart and a smile. What a gift she is to so many.”

Sloan was nominated for the honor by one of her peers, and the nomination was supported with letters from teachers, school officials and parents who all expressed the highest praise for her.

“We’re thrilled, and she holds our profession to the highest standard,” Trumbull Director of Nursing Coleen Figliuzzi said. “It’s a wonderful honor to have one of our nurses in Trumbull receive this honor.

According to a release from the town, Sloan was recognized for her compassion for children, subject matter expertise, delivery of training and awareness programs, and relationships with parents and teachers alike. Letter writers cited her reputation for reaching beyond the traditional role of school nurse to encompass a wider range of health care issues, from breast cancer awareness to heart disease. Her health fairs, holiday boutique, fund-raisers, and volunteer work were also cited as showing her penchant for going above and beyond her normal duties.

Sloan started her career in England, later working in Bermuda and finally moving to Trumbull about 25 years ago. Her children went through Jane Ryan School. She started subbing at the school in 1996 and took on the full-time job in 2000.

A box in Sloan’s office displays her giant stuffed germs, which she uses to teach kids about washing hands. She also has a giant mouth used for oral hygiene education.

“You’ve got to have humor or they won’t learn,” Sloan said. “To me, learning has got to be fun or they aren’t engaged.”

Since serious food allergies have increased, educating children at an early age about being careful about what they eat is also a big part of the job.

But education isn’t only for the kids. Sloan is a breast cancer survivor and feels obligated to raise awareness about health issues with the staff.

“We have a lot of women in this building, of all ages,” Sloan said. “So I try to reach out to them, whether it’s breast cancer in October or in February with heart disease.”

Sloan was honored Wednesday night at a special dinner of the Association of School Nurses of Connecticut. The honor fell on School Nurse Appreciation Day, which is sometimes a difficult anniversary for Sloan. Eight years ago, on School Nurse Appreciation Day, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is in good health now and said receiving the honor gives her a good memory to add to the anniversary.

Most of all, Sloan said, she loves the variety her job provides.

“You’re independent but you have people nearby if you need them,” Sloan said. “One day is crazy and I don’t sit down, and then the next is quiet and I catch up on my paperwork.”

She has had the opportunity to work at other schools, but she always wanted to stay at Jane Ryan.

“I love this school — it’s really a family, with the staff, parents and children,” Sloan said. “It’s a lovely atmosphere.”

Sloan was also chosen by The Connecticut Post as one of the Top Ten Nurses in Fairfield County, to be featured in the May 12 issue of The Post.