From Band-Aids to Break-Ups

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From the time she was a 1st grader at Convent of the Sacred Heart, Gail Trano wanted to be a nurse. Four years ago, she returned to the city’s oldest independent girls’ school to keep its more than 680 students healthy and ready to learn.

As school nurse, Trano doesn’t just put ice on pulled muscles and band-aids on scraped knees. Her charges’ physical and emotional needs vary greatly: one might have an asthma attack, while another suffers from allergies. One could be upset over a grandparents’ death, while another complains of boy trouble.

Tending to a population that ranges in age from 3-year-olds to 12th graders means dealing with the full scope of developmental stages, explained Joseph J. Ciancaglini, head of school.

“It’s a challenge for a nurse to make sure all the kids are well cared for. Some you bandage up and send back to the classroom. With others you have to know if she’s really ill or is it a test coming up or a fight with a friend,” he said. “Gail is zeroing in very quickly on what the real problem is.”

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

The key to working with children and teenagers, Trano believes, is showing them that they can trust and confide in her. To achieve that, she often draws from her training: after graduating from the Columbia School of Nursing, she spent years working in adolescent psychiatry before building an entire school nursing program from scratch at Regis High School.

The transition from Regis, an all-boys school, to Sacred Heart proved less jarring than she anticipated.

“They’re all kids and they all need the same thing: somebody to listen to them,” Trano said.

She said the girls know that her door is always open and that once inside, they can count on more than expertly administered First Aid. They come to her for beauty supplies like hair gel and nail polish remover (school policy prohibits wearing nail polish in lower grades). They come to chat with her about the latest Harry Potter movie or Twilight novel (she makes a point of keeping up to date on pop culture).

It is this atmosphere of comfort and support, Trano thinks, that allows them to open up to her.

“I listen and I observe. I see bullying and teasing, I see reactions to test grades, I see the coping skills,” she said. “I see the isolated child, the sad child whose parents just divorced, the child who is losing weight, the child who is gaining too much.”

Her dedication to the students is so great, the mother of two grown sons spends most of her spare time researching the field and mentoring others. A member of city, state and national school nurses associations, Trano contributes extensively to online forums.

JoAnn Kubat, the current nurse at Regis High School, said Trano’s expertise is sought by colleagues all over the country.

“There isn’t a question out there on the listserv that doesn’t prompt somebody to say, ‘Let’s ask Gail,’” Kubat said. “Gail knows everything, and she loves to pass on what she knows.”

For Trano, the guiding and training of other nurses is an important contribution to her profession, one that enables her to affect countless kids outside of Sacred Heart’s vaulted hallways: “To be someone who makes a difference in the life of a child is a privilege and a joy.”

Gail Trano
School Nurse, Convent of the Sacred Heart

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