"I'd like to think I've done well for the kids," Lauderdale said
Lauderdale worked nine years for the Visiting Nurse Association and also emergency room and also served as an intensive care nurse before becoming a school nurse. The idea of working with healthy people, and especially promoting health and wellness with children, sounded like an attractive alternative.
"My kids were young and in school at the time," Lauderdale said. "I thought I could be closer to them and be on top of what they were doing."
When she started, Lauderdale was the R-1 District's only nurse, starting when Louise Veith retired. Lauderdale partnered with a community wellness team that organized at Schreiber Foods and worked with Cox Monett Hospital in providing health promotions and screenings for the staff.
"I was nursing and teaching, doing a little bit of everything, besides being a mother or a health resource person to everyone," Lauderdale said. "Teachers still ask for my opinion on all kinds of things."
The introduction of Hispanic students to Monett's enrollment created new dynamics. Lauderdale began meeting after school with Spanish teacher Charlotte Daniel, referring to her old Spanish school books and relying heavily on Lou Ellen Honeycutt and the staff at the Migrant Center.
"Now we have interpreters on each campus," Lauderdale said. "Most kids are good at speaking English. If we can't talk to the parents, we tell the kids our message. The written communications we send home are all in English and Spanish."
After eight years on the job in Monett, Superintendent Dr. Charles Cudney and the school board saw district enrollment and the number of facilities growing. In response the district has Lauderdale, an RN, at Monett Intermediate School, registered nurse Carol Hamm at Monett Elementary School, LPN Paula Fenske at the high school and Southwest Career Center, and health clerk Christy Brown at Central Park Elementary.
"When it was just me and we didn't have the numbers, I could handle it," Lauderdale said.
"Sometimes Carole Hamm's office is like Crosslines," she continued. "We have a lot of clothes available in case they're needed. A lot of it has to do with the economy. We've seen more needy children and health and hygiene issues. More children are on free and reduced lunch.
"We're not a counselor, but I feel like we are," Lauderdale said. "So many kids have emotional problems in addition to health issues and bullying. We're already dealing with a number of major issues in fifth and sixth grade. Every year we have at least one pregnancy at the high school."
Today, school nurses work more comprehensively to find healthcare for students. Lauderdale said for several years there were no Medicaid providers in Monett. Now several physicians take MC+ and MO Healthnet. The Access Care clinic in Cassville recently made a visit to provide dental care.
"I can't say enough good things about the Barry County Health Department," Lauderdale said. "They help a lot with immunizations. I'm especially grateful to have the Cox Caremobile available."
Additional support had come through the Cox Monett Hospital's Cardiac Kids program targeting childhood obesity. The hospital started a new childhood asthma program this year. Shane Anderson, with the Monett Fire Department, helps with CPR certification. The Monett Lions Club brings a vision van to help screen children for sight problems.
"We've had a health advisory council for the past seven years that includes specialists from outside the school," Lauderdale said. "We share concerns, talk about what more we can do and what the community has to offer for students and the staff. It's been a big help."
Lauderdale will work until the end of August and has agreed to be available as a substitute nurse in her retirement, a luxury the district has not had in the past. She said she will miss seeing children on a daily basis the most.
"Some of the kids you see are almost like your own children," Lauderdale said. "You follow them all through the years. I'm seeing some of the kids of kids I saw in school.
"There are some days when I wonder what I did all day," Lauderdale continued. "I go to the store, and there are those who want to give me a hug. Sometimes they tell me, 'I only pretended to be sick.' I say, 'I know you did.'"
Lauderdale plans to stay busy with children as a grandmother. Her daughter, Kara Harter, who lives in Carterville, is expecting her third child. Her son, Eric, and his wife, Allison, have three children on a family farm near Purdy. She also plans to spend more time with her mother, Esther Westra, who lives in Pierce City.
Lauderdale said she never had a school administration that failed to support her, making her successes possible. Her husband, John, also gave her essential support.
"When I started, we didn't have policies and procedures and liabilities," Lauderdale said. "Students have so many health concerns, from allergies to diabetes, and we really have to be on top of things. We have a lot of equipment that we didn't used to have. A lot of parents rely on us to be the healthcare for their kids. I've had some kids who want to go home with me. I just try to do what I can.
"I'm glad we live in the Bible belt," Lauderdale said. "It would be harder to work in other places where they go against my values. We've got a good community where if we have needs, we get a lot of things from churches and groups who want to do things. I don't know if every community has that."