The Saratoga Sun -

The Retiring Nurse

After decades of service CCSD2 Head School Nurse, Karen Patton, retiring

 

Mike Armstrong

Left to right, Courtney Priest, Karen Patton, Teresa DeWitt and Rhonda Konrath stand outside the Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow High School during graduation ceremonies on May 29.

After 28 years of working for Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD2), 22 of them being the nurse for the entire district, Karen Patton is retiring.

Until four years ago, Patton was the only nurse for the seven schools. To say she will be missed by students, parents and staff of CCSD2 would be an understatement.

"Compassionate, Caring, and Dedicated to the kids is how you describe Karen Patton," Shelley Cooper, Medicine Bow Elementary who won CCSD2 teacher of the year for 2019 teacher said.

When asked what she was going to miss about her job, Patton answered, working with the students.

Patton leaves behind a legacy of caring for her students and has been honored by the state for her dedication.

The Wyoming School Nurses Association (WSNA) decided Patton had done an excellent job taking care of the students because they picked Patton as the 2018 Wyoming School Nurse of the Year. The WSNA considered 16 candidates from all over the state. The 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.

"This great honor could not go to a more deserving individual," Jim Copeland, Carbon County School District No 2 (CCSD 2) Superintendent, said when Patton won the award. "We are very fortunate to have Karen as our CCSD2 District Nurse serving our students at all 7 campuses. Her caring of our students over the years and her work ethic are unsurpassed."

Although not surprising to those who know Patton, when asked what her strongest memory or accomplishment was during her years as a nurse for CCSD2, she makes no mention of winning the Wyoming School Nurse of the Year.

"My feeling of accomplishment over the years and best memories are when I see a student in one of the communities, and they introduce me as their nurse," Patton said.

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 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 43 years.

Patton was educated at William Patterson University where she was trained in holistic medicine, that was considered cutting edge. 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, because of a strike that happened, she didn't want to work in that post-strike environment.

"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 later 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, 28 years with 22 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 Boys Scout leader. They 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.

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."

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

During her years at CCSD2 Patton interacted often with parents, calling on her own time to check on a student who have gone home sick earlier in the day.

"I told 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."

It is easy to understand why so many living in CCSD2 feel sad that this kind nurse is retiring.

Patton finds it rewarding to have served the generations of Carbon County students. She said she found herself treating students that were children of students she took care of years before.

Her last months were dealing with the effects of COVID-19 on the school system.

"COVID-19 created barriers to daily student interactions," Patton said. "But it opened up opportunities for learning and organization to continue the best practice for student medical needs."

Patton will not be able to see her ideas and input from the past months regarding the school's preparations to open implemented. But, there is little doubt, she had an impact on the medical protocols that will be put in place.

Patton said her future plans are simple.

"I want to enjoy my family and advocate for student health," Patton said.

Serving seven schools, many will miss her, but Patton said she will still be around. Carbon County is her home and she loves its residents.

"I was blessed to have had the honor to serve the children and families of CCSD2," Patton concluded.

 

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