Debra Kauffman

“Take your studies seriously, always look to the future, and never stop learning.”

Harford Community College alumna Debra Kauffman, RN was named the 2017 Maryland School Nurse of the Year by the Maryland Association of School Health Nurses. Debra, who works as a school nurse at Fountain Green Elementary School, was nominated for the state award by her principal, Alison Donnelly. “I was overwhelmed and humbled by winning,” she said.

The award was presented at her school by Nurse Coordinator for Harford County Public Schools Mary Nusuta RN, MS, NCSN. Debra was also recognized at a Board of Education meeting, by the Harford County Council, and at the Maryland Association of School Health Nurses and the National Association of School Nurses conferences.

“I derive great satisfaction from treating the child as a whole, taking into consideration the multifaceted aspects which comprise optimum total health,” said Debra. As a school nurse, her responsibilities include providing direct care to students by embracing their individuality and unique needs; providing vision, hearing screenings and referrals for health conditions; promoting health by providing health education to the students, families, and peers; serving as a liaison between school, family, health care, and the community; providing leadership for the provision of health services; promoting a healthy school environment; serving as a leader for the provision of health services; and ensuring clinical competence.

The role of the school nurse has changed over the years. “Technology has changed the way we do our jobs, prompting a shift from pen and paper to computer-based systems. This enables us to track and identify trends that may be occurring. We provide care to students of all abilities by developing comprehensive plans of care to meet their medical, physical, emotional, and educational needs,” said Debra.

“One of my greatest challenges has been managing students with food allergies in the school setting. When I started 14 years ago, there was one student with a food allergy. Currently, I have 33 children with multiple food allergies.” She works diligently to ensure a safe and normal environment for her students, and she also educates staff and parents by disseminating information about food allergies at the beginning of each school year. In 2009, Debra received the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Muriel Award for Making a Difference, a national award for her service to students with food allergies. She participated in a research project with Johns Hopkins University/University of Connecticut called CALM to learn about cognitive behavior therapy to help reduce fear, anxiety, and stress for children and families who deal with food allergies.

Debra, who earned an Associate of Science degree in Nursing from Harford Community College, was very pleased with the education she obtained. “I would recommend HCC’s registered nursing program to others. In today’s professional environment, it serves as an excellent stepping-stone toward advanced degrees.”

She said HCC provided a small and supportive academic community that facilitated one-on- one interaction between the student and the teacher. “The College ultimately provided me with the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a registered nurse, while remaining within my tuition budget.”

Debra said HCC’s nursing curriculum provided a sound knowledge base, both in classroom and clinical experiences. She found the course content to be intellectually stimulating and learned crucial facts in the classroom regarding normal and abnormal facts of health. “ . . . The clinical experience was particularly valuable because the student actually provides closely supervised nursing care to a real, living, breathing patient, often interacting with their families.” She explained that the student is also exposed to the nurse as an essential member of the health care team that encompasses global aspects of patient care.

Her advice to those just starting at Harford is to take complete advantage of all that HCC has to offer. “Take your studies seriously, always look to the future, and never stop learning.”

Debra was named Harford County Nurse of the Year (2008-2009). Other achievements include Nursing Delegation trainer for the Maryland Board of Nursing, CPR instructor–American Heart Association Heart Saver & Basic Life Support for Health Care Professionals, and Mentor for Harford County Public School Nurses. She is a member of a number of professional organizations and has volunteered at Healthy Harford and taught CPR to the Girl Scouts and nutrition to Daisies, the initial level of Girl Scouting for those in grades K-1.

In addition to 14 years of experience as a school nurse at Fountain Green Elementary, Debra has 27 years as a medical/surgical nurse.