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School nurse wins statewide award

Butler County lead Nurse Debbie Hyatt was recently named the Alabama Association of School Nurses Registered School Nurse of the Year. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Butler County lead Nurse Debbie Hyatt was recently named the Alabama Association of School Nurses Registered School Nurse of the Year. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Butler County Schools lead nurse Debbie Hyatt has been named the Alabama Association of School Nurses (AASN) Registered School Nurse of the Year.

Hyatt said she was humbled by the award.

“I was totally shocked by the announcement,” she said. “There are so many qualified and dedicated school nurses who work in this state and give their all each and every day for the students.  It is quite an honor to be awarded this title from my peers at the state level.”

Hyatt, who has served as a school nurse for the Butler County School System for 11 years, has been the system’s lead nurse for three years and currently oversees five first-year nurses.

“Each year brings its own new challenges, but it is a field where you are constantly learning and growing in your profession,” Hyatt said.  “School nursing isn’t for everyone, but then neither is any single focus of nursing. I’ve told students and staff in the past, that there is no reason to ever get bored or burnt out in the field of nursing, because there are so many different fields to work in. You can move to another field and be trained and learn a whole new view of nursing care.”

Prior to going to work for the school system, Hyatt worked for Life Flight in Pensacola, Fla., and for trauma centers in Pensacola and Chattanooga, Tenn. She’s also worked in home health, labor and delivery, employee health, intensive care and outpatient surgery during her 34-year nursing career.

“I have worked in school nursing about the same amount of time I worked in emergency nursing and I’m still learning new things each year,” she said. “It is never boring and brings new challenges each day. Much like the emergency department, you just really never know what you are going to be faced with each day. I have truly enjoyed working with the K-4 group this year and seeing things from their innocent and excited eyes. They love to come to school and learn and I have strived to make the visits and screening with the nurse an enjoyable experience to set the tone for future trips to medical facilities.  A good experience goes a long way toward their expectations in the future.  I loved working with the high school age students for 10 years, and watching them mature and learn how to take care of themselves for life and make choices that would affect their future plans. No two students are alike, so getting to know them personally goes a long way toward being able to influence and teach them wise habits.”

The chance to impact students is what led Hyatt to her current role.

“I like the busy clinic environment and have enjoyed getting to know the parents and students and assisting them in learning how to manage their health conditions,” she said. “Each student I take care of is being instructed in some way on how to manage their health and ultimately take care of themselves for life. I enjoy that aspect the most, I believe. Helping young people learn health management habits that will follow them through life is so important.   My motto, which is posted on the wall of my office says, ‘Children must be healthy to learn, and learn to be healthy.’”

Butler County Schools Superintendent Amy Bryan said Hyatt is a true asset to the school system.

“Mrs. Hyatt has the heart of a teacher along with the medical knowledge she brings to each student she cares for,” Superintendent Amy Bryan said. “I can give Mrs. Hyatt credit for teaching my daughter health sciences ‘back in the day’ which motivated (my daughter) all the way to nurse practitioner. We are lucky in Butler County to have such a leader and I am so thrilled for this statewide recognition for her exemplary work.”

In 2014, Hyatt was elected to serve on the board of directors for the Alabama Association of School Nurses.