This month, we’re celebrating Eden Autism’s nurses. At the school and across our Adult Services locations, our nurses have worked tirelessly to keep our participants safe throughout the pandemic. Join us this month as we recognize their incredible commitment to individuals with autism.
Teamwork. That’s the word that comes to the minds of the Eden School nurses when they reflect upon the past year. From the teachers and staff to the parents and guardians, the nurses worked with the entire Eden school community to ensure students remained healthy and happy.
“It’s all about benefiting the students’ health and wellness so they can do well and learn more and more life skills, which will hopefully enable them to move on and get a job and benefit their quality of life,” said Lead Nurse Saundra Pedersen.
The team of school nurses — Saundra, Janet Corbett, and Mary Beth Shipley — never stopped caring for Eden students. They set up a virtual office to have confidential meetings with parents to discuss their child’s health, helped students become comfortable wearing masks, and continued to care for the overall well-being of each student.
Nurses often use deduction to figure out what is bothering a student. For minimally verbal students who are still learning how to communicate — often by using an iPad or various communication methods — the nurses take steps to assess students for injury and take their vitals to determine what is bothering them. Once they figure out the ailment, they’re able to help the students feel better, which is the most rewarding part of the job.
“To get them out of that pain and get them comfortable where they’re happy and back to their program, it’s wonderful,” said Saundra.
Another big part of their job is desensitization. Going to the doctor or dentist can be a difficult experience for children with autism, so the school nurses spend time working with students to help them feel comfortable.
“It’s all about steps,” said Janet. “They go to the doctor, and they’re scared. So we help them get used to touching the blood pressure cuff, being in the dentist’s chair. It’s all something new, so there’s a little bit of fear. We help eliminate that fear.”
As a parent of a child with autism, Saundra also understands what many Eden parents go through when their child is sick.
“When you’re in it as a parent, you know what the nights are like when you can’t sleep,” she said. “I talk to the parents and let them know we’re here to help them, and we’ll do whatever we can — arranging with staff to have someone accompany them to a doctor’s office, making appointments, whatever we can do.”
Janet worked as a secretary in New York for 10 years before switching careers to become a nurse. “I’m a social person. I like to talk to people, and this also allows me to help people,” she said.
“Eden’s nurses are essential to the success and well-being of our students and adult participants. Without the expertise and care that they bring to our programs, we’d be missing a crucial element,” said Rachel Tait, Chief Program Officer. “We’re happy to recognize them during Nurses Week, but we appreciate them everyday.”