District 11 school nurse wins state award

The School Nurse Organization of Minnesota named Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Lois Whittet the 2013-2014 School Nurse of the Year.

Along with the state honor, Whittet receives a $4,000 scholarship from the Harvard Club of Minnesota Foundation to attend classes at Harvard University for one week this summer.

Former Anoka High School Nurse Lois Whittet (center) is recognized at the District 11 School Board meeting Nov. 12. Whittet won the School Nurse of the Year award from the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota. The district’s Health Service Coordinator Cynthia Hiltz and Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann are pictured with Whittet. Submitted photo

Former Anoka High School Nurse Lois Whittet (center) is recognized at the District 11 School Board meeting Nov. 12. Whittet won the School Nurse of the Year award from the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota. The district’s Health Service Coordinator Cynthia Hiltz and Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann are pictured with Whittet. Submitted photo

Whittet worked as the school nurse at Anoka High School for eight years before moving into her current role as a Q-Comp evaluator for the district, helping to determine employees’ performance pay.

“Lois is a leader in our department and in school nursing,” District 11’s Health Service Coordinator Cynthia Hiltz told the school board at the Nov. 12 meeting.

Hiltz, who was named School Nurse Administrator of the Year in 2010, nominated Whittet, largely because of her work after 10th-grade health screenings.

For several years, Allina Health has come into the schools and screened sophomores, checking glucose and cholesterol levels, students’ body mass indexes and other health indicators.

Whittet piloted a follow-through process, checking in with students after the screenings if their levels were abnormal.

In addition to her work with sophomores, “she just has this really good way of working with other school nurses … a gift that not every school nurse has,” Hiltz said.

Any of the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota’s 350 members are eligible for the Nurse of the Year or Administrator of the Year awards. To win, members are nominated and evaluated under a seven-part rubric.

“The award really could go to anybody – we have so many great nurses,” Whittet said of District 11 staff.

Champlin Park High School’s Sheila Davies won the award six years ago.

Whittet is looking forward to her trip to Harvard. She’s never traveled to the East Coast, though she’s been almost everywhere else.

Every summer, Whittet takes what she calls a “vacation with purpose,” offering her nursing services to communities across the globe.

“It’s a nice diversion,” she said of her travels to Russia, Peru, Mexico and other foreign locales.

Before becoming a school nurse, Whittet worked in corrections, serving as a nurse in Anoka jails and with juvenile delinquents.

Seeking a change, Whittet applied for a position with the district.

When her time as a Q-Comp evaluator comes to a close, she does not think she will return to Anoka High School. For one thing, it won’t be “home” anymore, she said. “After three years, a lot of things change.”

Whittet would consider another position in the district or teaching aspiring nurses full time at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, where she currently works part time.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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