Sharon Morrill, school nurse at Morse High School, has witnessed a dramatic change in the role and scope of her job in recent decades.

Long gone are the days when school nurses just provided first aid. There are a myriad new problems reflecting today’s society and the health care system.

Morrill has rolled with the change quite nicely — so well, in fact, that she recently was named School Nurse of the Year by the Maine Association of School Nurses (MASN). The MASN recognized her during the organization’s Summer Institute, held on July 26 at Bates College.

“A lot of people really don’t understand the role of the school nurse,” Morrill said Wednesday from her home in Lincolnville. “There are nearly a thousand more visits per year now, with 300 fewer students than I’ve seen. We have no health care system, and our children are becoming lost.”

MASN gives its School Nurse of the Year award to “someone who demonstrates excellence in school nursing practice and leadership in school nursing.”

Morrill will be honored again next May during the annual Maine School Nurse Tea, where family and friends, and her colleagues will be present to celebrate.

A school nurse for 21 years, the 1969 Cony High School graduate has spent the past decade at Morse. Peter Kahl, the school principal, appreciates her contributions.

“Being a high school nurse is more than just administering medicine and determining whether to send students home or not,” Kahl said. “The job has a full spectrum of responsibilities and Sharon handles all of them with ease.”

Morrill commonly sees students whose parents cannot afford health care. Some students suffer from abuse.

Typically, she said, a first visit to a school nurse seems like a little thing.

“A belly ache or a headache develops into a relationship,” she said. “Then you run into a whole cadre of things. Children don’t divulge much until a relationship develops.”

School nurses also work closely with social workers to help families.

Morrill appreciates her experience at Regional School Unit 1.

“I have to credit RSU 1,” she said. “They have kept a school nurse at every school.”

Morrill attended the July 26 award ceremony with her husband, Leigh; her father, Waldo Gilpatrick; and her sister, Robin Thomas.

“It meant a lot for my father to be there,” she said. “He was very proud.”

Morrill has served on the Maine Association of School Nurses board of directors from 1992 to 2000. Currently, she is co-chairwoman of the MASN Education Committee.

She also has served as a school health educator and taught health education at Lincoln Academy, where she managed the school health clinic and was the school nurse. She also has taught in Topsham.

Morrill is a “tireless advocate for school health, a healthy school environment and the well being of students and staff,” according to the MASN news release.

She coordinated with teachers at Morse in health screenings by making them a component of lesson plans.

“Sharon practices in a true public health model,” the release said. “Whether she is providing referral and resources while caring for students, planning a flu clinic, overseeing training for Lifelines Youth Suicide Prevention Curriculum and other programs, or as a state school nurse board member, she is always dedicated to that role.”

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