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School nurse loves Langston
Elementary school suits health specialist perfectly
Langston Nurse
Karen Thigpen is the nurse at Langston Chapel Elementary School. Thigpen enjoys the challenge of getting children to open up to her when they're not feeling well. - photo by ROGER ALLEN/special
    One could argue one of the most important jobs today is that of a school nurse – someone who is trusted with the health, well-being and safety of a school’s children.
    In many cases, the children and their parents don’t even know if their child is sick until they’ve gone to school. This is when the school nurse’s job becomes interesting, for not only do they have to diagnose the particular discomfort or illness, but they have to decide how to treat it, as well.
    One such nurse is Karen Thigpen of Langston Elementary School. Thigpen graduated from the Medical College of Georgia with a Bachelors of Science degree in nursing. She first went to work in the pediatric wing of East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
    From there she went to work in a pediatrician’s private practice. When she left there, she went to work for the Bulloch County Health Department. None of those jobs were “the right fit,” Thigpen said. But then she found Langston Chapel and “within a week or two of coming here,” she said, “I knew I was in the right place.”
    Principal Karen Doty said Thigpen is unshakable
    “Why, we’ve had grand mal seizures, epileptic fits, and even two teachers go into labor since Karen came here,” Doty said. “She always manages to calm us all down when things get really crazy around here. Nothing is a big deal to her.”
    Teacher Kathy Rigdon recounted what happened the day she went into labor: “I was pregnant with my first child. I came to school one day feeling particularly bad. I immediately went to Nurse Karen. She took one look at me, told me my water had broken, grabbed my hand and took me out to her car, and drove us to the hospital.”
    Rigdon continued, “Once we got there, she sat by my side and held my hand until my husband arrived. She’s got a piece of my heart. Every time I look at my child, I can’t help but think of her. She’s always there for everyone, no matter what.”
    Kathy Wood, RN, lead nurse for Bulloch County Schools, agreed with Rigdon.
     Wood said of Thigpen, “School nurses are a unique group. They take care of the students (while acting as) a resource for all employees…(and)…balance calming children who get hurt…(and showing) firmness for students needing to be in their classroom…From the time Karen Thigpen came to work at LE, she has done all these things.”
    The most rewarding thing, Thigpen said, is that “when a child comes to ill but won’t tell you what’s wrong. You have to get them to open up. When they finally tell you what’s wrong, you can make them feel better and then send them on their way with a smile on their face.”
    Furthermore, now that she’s had her first child, she said, “I find myself being more sympathetic to the children, as I now will treat them the same way I would want my child to be treated. I give the kids lots of hugs, but no candy, and will often let them just come in and sit for a few moments. To many of them, my office is kind of sanctuary.”
    Thigpen appreciates Doty and how she runs the school.
    “She’s very supportive of how I run my clinic. If I notice something I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ll bring in one of the counselors, who can usually discover the bottom line.
    “I always document each child’s visit very carefully, and consult with other staff whenever necessary. I’ve decided to pursue a masters degree in nursing just for my own development, but I’m not looking to go anywhere else.”
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