New school nurses: Women behind the title

Showing all smiles, Nurse Margaret Struck poses with family friend Lux Behrens. Working with children is one of the reasons Struck chose to work as a school nurse for David City Public Schools.

Nicole Buntgen, Co-Editor

Taking care of injuries, passing out medications, and moving back and forth from school to school on a daily basis may seem like quite a bit to handle. Nobody said the life of a school nurse would be easy, especially when it means you’re being hired in the middle of the year and you’ve, well, never actually been a school nurse before. Not to mention the fact that there’s a double of you who was hired at the exact same time a little over ten minutes away.

Nurses Margaret Struck and Carrie Thoendel have changed the game. Officially starting their positions at David City Public Schools in the beginning of February, Struck said she is new to the “school nurse world”, however, she does have quite the past to back that up.

Being a member of the David City community for 59 years, Struck said this first-time experience as a school nurse makes her feel younger. She said she really enjoys the little kids, as everyone, including high schoolers, look like little kids to her.

“I have grandbabies who are two and four years old, and I just missed the imagination of a young child. I missed taking care of the little ones,” Struck said. “I contemplated for a while, and when the job came up, I applied.”

Struck has also been working at David Place Nursing Home in David City for the past 35 years. Along with the nursing home, she has also worked as a nurse all across Nebraska, in places such as Wayne, Columbus, and Lincoln.

Sure, nursing might not be all fun and games, but during the summers when Struck puts her nursing position on pause, she said she enjoys taking a trip all the way up to Alaska with her husband.

Ah, yes. Alaska. Not the first place you hear people traveling to in the summer. But for the Strucks, it was a fun way to make money while also creating some memories along the way.

The Strucks first traveled to Alaska on May 7, 1978, two days after they were wed. In their old Ford truck and camper, the two set off on their adventure. Last year, Struck said her and her husband’s purpose for going up to Alaska was to fish for salmon and sell them at barges. Between no running water, no electricity, and showers that Struck said consisted of “throwing a bucket of water on top of you”, the adventure, to some, may not have seemed like any so-called paradise. To the Strucks, however, the experience was much more than that.

“There were beautiful bald eagles. [Fishing was] just something to do to make money. We made $15,000 in three months just from selling fish,” Struck said. “[It was] a good experience; we learned how to fix nets and we lived on a lot of sourdough.”

Even though Thoendel and Struck have never been school nurses, they said they both are very passionate about their love for the kids. This definitely shows through Thoendel as she is not only the Bellwood school nurse, but she is also their school secretary.

“I just wanted to be in a small community and to be with all the kids,” Thoendel said. “I enjoy both positions; it varies from day to day, but the schedule works well with my family. I have three children in the school so it’s nice to get to see them everyday.”

Thoendel grew up on a farm by Bellwood and has been in the town since. She graduated from nursing school and worked at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Lincoln in the NICU and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Coronary Care Unit for a couple years. Once married, she moved to Omaha La Vista and worked at a surgery center as the back office manager. After that, Thoendel decided to move back to Bellwood to become a surgery coordinator at the Columbus Surgery Center. From there, Thoendel quit that job to come to Bellwood Elementary.

As a nurse, Thoendel said she makes sure all incoming kindergarteners and new students have their immunizations up-to-date while also helping them with their day-to-day illnesses by giving them medications and doing their health screenings. On the secretary side, Thoendel described the job as “doing a little bit of everything”. Whatever is needed at the moment, Thoendel said she is on it. Currently, she is working on the school’s newsletter.

“I enjoy it; everyone’s been very kind and has been helping me adjust to this new world,” Thoendel said. “Right now I’m mainly just figuring out the system and how things are done here in Bellwood. I’m figuring where things were left off and what still needs to be done for this year.”

It’s one thing when a school brings in a new nurse during the middle of the year. It’s another when they bring in a second nurse who also happens to be the new secretary as well. Lots of new things at such an odd time of the year. But hey, these two ladies have been working with each other to make sure they’re doing everything it takes to be the best school nurses (and secretary) David City Public Schools has ever had.

“I’ve had a lot of nursing emergencies in life, so I haven’t really been scared of anything so far,” Struck said. “I’m excited to see how the kids grow from kindergarten up. I’m happy to work with them; it’s really a treat!”