By Barry H. Hendrix
Candy Thompson, the lead school nurse in the Thomasville City Schools District, has been chosen as the “Employee of the Year” for the 2019-2020 school year.
She was honored March 17 at the school board meeting in the Thomasville High School library.
She was born on an Army base in Colorado Springs, Colo. Her parents are originally from Marengo County. When her father got out of the Army, they moved back to this area, when she was a baby. They would eventually settle in Sweet Water.
Thompson graduated valedictorian from Sweet Water High School. She earned an associate degree in nursing from then Livingston University (now the University of West Alabama).
She previously worked at J. Paul Jones Hospital in Camden, and for home health agencies in Atmore and Thomasville. She has served 19 years as the lead nurse in the Thomasville school system. Every school system in Alabama is mandated to have a lead nurse, Thompson said.
Her position has lead nurse involves “coordinating health services from within the school system,” she said. She is in charge of making sure all the schools have adequate supplies. She also supervises annual outside health screenings for system students such as Vision Research, Sight Savers and other free health screenings such as for scoliosis and head lice.
Thompson supervises the dispensing of medicine for individual students at Thomasville High School. Currently, she has 10 to 15 students who take medicine daily, and she has one student who is a diabetic.
She is aided by nurse Diana Steadham at Thomasville Elementary School, who has 15 to 20 students she sees on a daily basis.
Thompson prepares a summary each year for the school superintendent on the nurse activities. Over the 19 years she has served THS, the state Department of Education has done a better job coordinating school nurses. They have mandated standards for all the school systems, she said. “There is more of a continuity of care across the state.”
And computers make it easier to send data to the state. “With a click of a button, we can pull up reports,” she said.
Thompson has a good relationship with parents of THS students. “The parents are very supportive,” when it comes to regulations. “They are very receptive to (nurses) calling them.” Thompson believes the parents trust her, and appreciate nurses “using their best judgement.”
Also, parents are become more cooperative in keeping children home when they are sick.
The common flu is always a challenge each school year, but the nurses are able to communicate better with parents through social media and the school website. “That has been a very big help keeping parents informed and helping them understand what needs to be done,” she said.
Thompson also must work with students who participate in extracurricular activities. “You have to coordinate training with coaches and make sure the kids have what they need,” she said. “We can do a lot more training than we used to.”
Nurses are often required to accompany elementary students with special medical needs on school bus rides.
There are also specific students who require a nurse to be present on all field trips and times away from the school building.
The state department has made a major effort to help school employees be healthier through losing weight, eating healthier and getting the flu shot each year. “In a school setting, the nurse is the only healthcare voice,” Thompson said. “A lot of people come to me for advice.”
In a doctor’s office or hospital, a nurse will have a doctor nearby, “here, you are pretty much on your own. We have to follow doctor’s orders and we can’t do certain things without doctor’s orders. …Our role is to access and use of our judgement on what follow-up needs to be made.”
Along with dispensing first aid on campus, “we try to keep everyone informed and healthy,” she said.
The lead nurse trains school staff each year in Anaphylaxis and Tier I Diabetic Training. There is also CPR/AED training for coaches and training for bus drivers and the school system’s Emergency Response Team.
The recent Coronavirus Outbreak has been a unique experience for the school nurse. “I am thankful that our state and our school system are taking the COVID-19 outbreak seriously,” Thompson said. “I encourage all of our faculty, staff and students to heed the recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) in order to slow the spread of the virus.”
Her husband Pat is the head football coach at Sweet Water High School. He was an assistant football coach at Thomasville High School, when she began work for the Thomasville system.
The couple have four children: Shelby (Thompson) Reese, Wynn Thompson, Maggie Thompson and Walker Thompson. Maggie (senior) and Walker (sophomore) attend Sweet Water High School.
Being a coach’s wife, she spends a lot of off time at sporting events. “I have the best of both worlds,” Thompson said. “I get to support Thomasville because I love the people here. You want to see them succeed.
“Then, my husband is at Sweet Water and my kids are with him. You, of course, want to see them succeed. The only time it is real hard is when (the schools play each other), then I’m kind of torn.”
She plays the piano at Sweet Water Baptist Church. “We’re members there and teach a Sunday school class,” she said. “…I do enjoy being involved in our church.”
Thompson is currently battling breast cancer, and she recently completed her chemotherapy treatments. She will begin a round of radiation treatments after Spring Break.
She was diagnosed in November 2019 and appreciates the support from both the Thomasville and Sweet Water communities. “I have really appreciated the support of everybody,” she said. “It has been a blessing see how people have reached out. At least every week…people were cooking meals. Stuff shows up at your house.”
The Thomasville school administration has been very helpful with her schedule of medical treatments.
Thompson has experienced “how good people are.”