Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Nursing




Judith Lothian, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marie Foley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Munira Wells, Ph.D.


School nurse, secondary trauma, resilience, school health, qualitative research


The school nurse (SN) is often the sole health care expert in the school setting, providing for the physical and socio-emotional needs of others. SN may be exposed to reports of trauma, a widespread and costly public health issue. This study sought to explore the experience of the SN when exposed to reports of trauma from those in their care. Seven N.J. certified school nurses participated in two online interviews via Microsoft Teams, spaced one to two weeks apart between June 2021 and September 2021. Interviews were recorded & transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis applied. This study found that SN receive reports of trauma to varying degrees, with those in high-poverty urban settings relaying more frequent exposure than those in suburban settings. The SN identified the health office as a safe haven where students are welcome, accepted as they are, can share concerns, and seek comfort from their ailments.SN reported challenges working within the school model, and experienced obstacles to receiving reports of trauma including a lack of school-based collaboration, a lack of understanding of the SN role, and SN workload. In the eye of the storm, while receiving traumatic reports, SN focus on immediate needs. Later, while mitigating the aftermath, they process the experience and apply coping strategies, such as self-care and social support, to restore and replenish. While weathering the storm, they share concern and frustration, but acknowledge that they can only do so much. The SN in this study did not demonstrate secondary trauma but instead shared stories of resilience. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SN receipt of reports of trauma were explored. Further research is needed regarding the role of the SN, SN workload, and their experience in receiving reports of trauma.