Still making her rounds

Published 11:21 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2010

As the first black woman to graduate from the Louise Obici School of Professional Nursing, Janice White made history.

She doesn’t look at it that way, though. She says she has been having fun the entire time.

“I think, for me, nursing is a calling,” White said. “I’ve never had any second feelings or regrets.”

White first knew she wanted to go into nursing when she was a small child.

“I was always taking care of animals and trying to take care of people,” she said.

White graduated from the nursing school in 1972, and immediately began working as a medical surgical pediatric nurse at Louise Obici Memorial Hospital. She later worked there part-time while also working as a school nurse at Suffolk Public Schools. In 1988, she became the supervisor of health services for Suffolk Public Schools, and she continues that work today.

However, White’s education was not complete when she received her Obici diploma. In 1986, she received a Bachelor of Science degree from Norfolk State University, and she was declared a National Certified School Nurse in 1992. In 1998, White received a master’s degree in religious education from the Virginia University of Lynchburg, and she was licensed to preach in 2006. She is an associate minister at Metropolitan Baptist Church.

White says her passion for working with children has kept her going in the school system.

“I have enjoyed the children within the school division,” White said. “The most rewarding thing is when you come across one of your [former] students, and they say, ‘You don’t remember this, but I was in such-and-such a grade and visited your clinic, and you were so nice to me,’” White said. “You realize you have the opportunity to impact lives.”

White worked as a nurse at five different schools before moving to the administrative offices to become the health services supervisor. However, she still visits the schools regularly, checking up on the school nurses and their supplies, scheduling clinics such as the recent H1N1 vaccination clinics, overseeing staff wellness and handling any issues related to health.

“School nursing is like being in an emergency room,” she said. “You never know what’s going to walk through the door.”

Since the 1970s, the business of school nursing has changed a lot, White said. School nurses are dealing with more chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, in young children than ever before.

They also now deal with more pregnant and obese students, and medical technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, enabling children to attend school who could not have done so 20 years ago.

“When I started in school nursing, we basically did first aid,” White said. “It has really changed. We’re case managers for a lot of children.”

Being the first black nurse to graduate from the Louise Obici School of Professional Nursing was stressful at the time, White says, but looking back, she would not have done anything differently.

“When you’re the first at something, it’s like you’re carrying the burden of your people,” she said. “You have people depending on you to make it.”

White now realizes she did everything for the children who would be under her care.

“It’s the children that have made the difference,” White said. “If I’m having a rough day, I can go to one of the schools and see the children, and it makes everything better.”