When Schools Reopen in Delaware, Nurse of the Week Sue Smith Will be Ready

When Schools Reopen in Delaware, Nurse of the Week Sue Smith Will be Ready

Delaware is still debating whether to reopen in-person classes at public schools this month, but if they’re ready, our Nurse of the Week, Mispillion Elementary’s school nurse Sue Smith will be ready too.

After 25 years of working for the Milford school district—and seven years of nursing at Mispillion Elementary—the Delaware School Nursing Association’s 2019 School Nurse of the Year is not easily rattled. As the pandemic started to spread last year, Smith’s extensive experience prompted local officials to add her to Delaware Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Education’s Health and Wellness Workgroup for School Reopening, where she helped to assess the state’s plan to send kids back to school.

Smith has been ready to return to care for her kids since last fall when Delaware schools opened and swiftly sputtered to a close when Covid-19 cases began breaking out within days. Back when People magazine spoke to the 62-year-old school nurse in September, Smith’s view was quite matter-of-fact: “In my nurse’s office, I’ll still feel very comfortable doing what I normally do. I’ll have my mask and goggles on because I’ll be very close to the children, but I’ll feel very confident doing an assessment. Of course, I think there’s always going to be a level of anxiety for the unknown because this virus is an unknown. We don’t have a crystal ball to tell us everything will be okay. It’s not about if someone’s going to get infected — it’s when. But I truly believe we’re prepared to handle it.”

Mispillion Elementary Principal Teresa Wallace told Delaware State News that she places the utmost confidence in her school nurse. “She’s helped the district prepare and helped our school prepare. She is in the field of nursing and has a lot of background, not just as a school nurse, but in other areas. I feel like her knowledge base is really important in dealing with something that has so many unknowns.”

Smith’s debut in the pages of America’s best-known celebrity periodical hasn’t phased her. Asked about her remarks in People, she said, “All school nurses are feeling the same anxieties and those kinds of things. It’s important to know that in Delaware we’re all trying to work together to help each other.” What does she plan to do with her brush with fame? “I probably will put it [the magazine] in a frame for my granddaughter. That way, she’ll have it for a long, long time.”

Click the link to see Sue Smith’s appearance in People magazine.

Nurse of the Week Brianna Fogelman: ” I remember going to take my final with my chest tube…”

Nurse of the Week Brianna Fogelman: ” I remember going to take my final with my chest tube…”

Nursing school is often a challenge, but it can be particularly hard if you need to have a lung transplant during your junior year. Such was the case with Nurse of the Week Brianna Fogelman.

“I had collapsed lungs…I developed pneumonia,” recalls the Delaware thoracic nurse. “I pretty much was on 10 liters of oxygen–the highest; my husband had to wash me up, had to shower me–I couldn’t walk. I remember going to take my final with my chest tube in my chest and going to school with all of that.” Two weeks before her wedding, Fogelman checked in at Johns Hopkins for a lung transplant. “I was dying…they were trying to wait until after my wedding to do my transplant, and in my mind, I’m like ‘oh I’m going to walk down the aisle with my wedding dress and my oxygen on’…I was just unrealistic, and I was just so wrapped up in not believing that I had to have a transplant.”

Fogelman had her operation in June 2019 and returned to school for her senior year in August. Then, after graduation she had a brilliant interview and was hired on the spot for her dream job: she is now working as a thoracic nurse at the hospital where she had had her lifesaving operation, Johns Hopkins. Fogelman was delighted. “They kind of saw how I was struggling and how I was so determined to finish school on time; I guess I kind of gained their respect that way. Hopkins was pretty much on my side about everything, and they were just really understanding, and they understood that I didn’t want to sulk. Whatever happened, I wanted to be grateful; I wanted to live and I wanted to live my life, so they just backed me 100%.”

As she works with her patients on the Hopkins thoracic ward, Fogelman tries to instill them with her positive attitude: “When you are able to get a second chance at life, it’s like you have a different meaning and a different vision about life and about what matters and what doesn’t matter. Even if you’re in a difficult situation–like me–declining very rapidly, not knowing if you’re going to live the next day…get rooted in something that will keep you going, get rooted in something that will bring support…just make sure you try to have a positive attitude no matter how hard things get.”

For more on Breanna Fogelman’s story, visit WDEL.com.

Listen to the Chapter Podcasts for Jonas and Kovner's Health Care Delivery in the United States


Gain a better understanding of the current state of the US health care system and how it might impact your work and life.

You have Successfully Subscribed!