The Saratoga Sun -

First nurse

CCSD No. 2 nurse Patton selected Nurse of the Year


March 21, 2018

Mike Armstrong

Photo by Mike Armstrong Karen Patton is surprised with a cake at HEM High School by friends, family and school staff honoring her selection as Wyoming School Nurse of the Year.

Karen Patton was surprised with a cake Wednesday at the Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) High School congratulating her being selected as Wyoming School Nurse of the Year.

The surprise was pulled off by HEM PrincipalSteve Priest, his wife and Medicine Bow secretary, Courtney, Mark Shipp, principal of Medicine Bow, Elk Mountain and Hanna Elementary schools, family and friends of Patton.

"Steve and I decided to have the party the other day because as her home area of the district we wanted to honor her as soon as possible," Courtney Priest said. "She does not like chocolate cake, so I ordered the cake according to instructions I got from her daughter, white or yellow cake with whippy icing."

Both principals spoke of Patton's devotion to her job and the students she cares for.

"We are extremely lucky to have Karen in our district and our buildings. She is dedicated to our students and our schools. She serves in all seven buildings for Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD 2) and her focus is always on the students," Steve Priest said. "She works tirelessly in order to see that the students' needs are met and that the needs are met in a safe manner. She assists our teachers, administrators, secretarial staff and coaches in ensuring that all paperwork is completed correctly and that any necessary medications are ready as needed. Being honored as the Wyoming School Nurse of the Year is well deserved for Karen."

Wyoming School Nurses Association (WSNA) picked Patton, the school nurse for CCSD 2, as the 2018 Wyoming School Nurse of the Year after considering 16 candidates from all over the state. This award is given to recognize school nurses statewide by annually honoring one school nurse who demonstrates excellence in school nursing practice and leadership in school health. Only one nominee is allowed from each school district and must be a registered professional nurse in the state of Wyoming. The candidate must be a member of the WSNA or National Association for School Nurses for the current and previous two years, have five years experience as a school nurse, and currently practicing full-time as a school nurse. If the only school nurse position in a community involves fewer hours than usual, it will be considered full-time for the purpose of eligibility criteria.

"We are very excited to hear the news that our Karen Patton has been named the Wyoming School Nurse of the Year. This great honor could not go to a more deserving individual," Jim Copeland, CCSD 2 Superintendent, said echoing many people who work with Patton. "We are very fortunate to have Karen as our CCSD 2 District Nurse serving our students at all 7 campuses. Her caring of our students over the years and her work ethic are unsurpassed. We look forward to many more years with nurse Karen Patton."

The WSNA considers many areas in which the nominee must excel: Quality of care, performance appraisals, ethics, education, collegiality, collaboration, research, resource utilization, communication, program management and health education are all criteria considered before choosing the best in the state.

"Karen is very deserving of this award because she is excellent at her job, not only in the schools but also when it comes to working with me here (administration) being helpful wherever she can," said Michelle McWain, CCSD 2 accounts payable/student information system administrator. "Speaking as a parent, she was really good with my daughter. Any time there was an issue, Karen was very kind and nurturing."

Patton was born in New Jersey and started working in her teens in a nursing home while going to school.

"My whole family, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents all helped others," Patton said. "Being volunteers to help the community is just what we did."

She said her grandmother used to leave food baskets on less fortunate families' porches.

"My grandmother used to tell us; 'Do stuff for other people, but don't let them know who did it for them,'" Patton said. "My grandmother used use the quote by Harry S. Truman: 'It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.""

Patton has been a nurse for 42 years.

Patton was educated at William Patterson University where she was trained in holistic medicine, which was considered cutting edge at the time. She got her nurses license in New York state because of the reciprocity it had with all other states. Patton went from working in a nursing home to a hospital after graduating, but because a strike happened she didn't want to work in an environment post-strike.

"There was going to be a lot of animosity, so I looked out west and found a job at the Rawlins hospital," Patton said. "I just wanted to get away from the mad race that was back in the East."

Patton met her husband, Bob, a few months after she had moved to Wyoming. Patton laughs as she said their first date was set up by a friend who wanted Bob to stop being their third wheel. Karen agreed to come on the date with Bob if it was a double date.

It was a good date, because the Pattons have been together 40 years and have six children.

Bob worked for Arch Coal, so Karen became a housewife and mother. When the mine closed, and Bob lost his job, Karen got a job at HEM starting as a substitute custodian, then substitute cook, substitute teacher and a one-on-one teacher to a troubled child. She got her nursing license renewed while teaching.

"I have been involved with the school district 26 years with 19 years of it being a nurse," Patton said. "I have been in a lot of different roles in the school system."

Karen was the Girl Scout leader and Bob the Boy Scout leader and both ran the concession stand for the school for 10 years. Their involvement cemented her commitment to kids she was helping in the schools while she was a nurse.

"She is very dedicated to the kids beyond measure and she is always looking out for their best interests," Sally Wells, CCSD 2 Business Manager said. "She came in and brought the nurses offices up to speed for the 21st century and Karen does an awesome job."

Darrin Jennings, principal of Saratoga Elementary said, "Karen Patton is a fantastic school nurse and most deserving of this award. She is organized and efficient and does a great job taking care of our students and staff. Karen is simply awesome."

Until two years ago, Patton was the only nurse for the seven schools. Melissa Copeland, who is now helping take on some of the load, is also happy Patton got the recognition of school nurse of the year.

"I have been blessed to work with Karen for the past two years here in Carbon County 2 Schools. She has served the children and staff of this district for many years and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her job each day," Copeland said. "But what sets Karen apart is the kindness and love with which she approaches each and every child. Karen is an exceptional nurse and most deserving of this honor."

From the north of Carbon County in Medicine Bow, to the south, in Encampment, school personnel are happy Patton got this recognition.

"Compassionate, caring, and dedicated to the kids is how you describe Karen Patton," Shelley Cooper, Medicine Bow Elementary teacher, said.

It wasn't always easy for Patton. She said at first, when she went to Medicine Bow, teachers weren't happy she was there because she was from Hanna.

"One teacher asked me why I was coming and I said that their children were just as important as any," Patton said. "After that, I had no problems about me being there."

"Karen really gets involved, really cares and puts her time in caring for the kids," Dario Soto, PE teacher for Medicine Bow Elementary agreed.

Patton said she put 14,000 miles a year on traveling to all the schools. She said when she first started there were 1,000 students and estimates she has seen thousands of kids.

"Karen Patton is an invaluable member of our team at Encampment K-12 School. Her dedication and devotion to our students is remarkable. We can rely on Karen any time-day or night," Michelle Pantle, Encampment K-12 secretary, said. "I personally feel very blessed to have her as a co-worker and friend. We are so very proud of Karen and grateful that she is our school nurse. She is very deserving of this award."

Patton interacts often with parents, calling on her own time to check on a student who had gone home sick earlier in the day.

"I tell parents, 'When your kids come through those school doors, they are mine and I am going to treat them like they are my own,'" Patton said. "Now, actually, I am saying I treat them like they are my grandkids."

Patton finds it rewarding to serve the generations of Carbon County students. She said she finds herself treating students that are children of students she took care of years before.

"Karen is amazing. She covers more ground in a week than some people do in a month," Courtney Priest said. "The children of CCSD 2 are lucky to have her."

The WSNA agreed with Priest's assessment by awarding her Wyoming School Nurse of the Year.

Patton acknowledges her family's support has been key to her being able to do the job the way she feels it should be done.

"My kids said, 'Aren't you glad you got so much training from the six of us,'" Patton said.

Her husband concluded, "With Karen, it has always been about helping the kids, whether they were ours or students."


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