Pelham’s Barbara Campbell Awarded NH School Nurse of the Year

May 24, 2013

Barbara Campbell, NH School Nurse of the Year recipient



submitted by Lynne Kirila

On April 1, when Dr. Dorothy Mohr, the principal of Pelham High School, asked Barbara Campbell to come to the front of the school building, she had no idea what awaited her.

A few months earlier several of her coworkers at Pelham High School nominated Barbara for NH School Nurse of the Year, and Dr. Mohr had just received word that Barbara had been unanimously selected by the NH School Nurses Association to be the recipient of their prestigious award.

Barbara was warmly congratulated by staff and students alike who all agreed this honor was well deserved.

Barbara Campbell started at PHS in 1988 after working in Hospital and Community Health Nursing for 14 years.  This year marks 25 years since she began working as the school nurse at the high school; she refers to her job as her “work from the heart.”  For Barbara, being a school nurse has been a wonderful experience, and she loves coming to work every day.  Barbara remembers the day, when she was a student nurse at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, that her professor, Dr. Jan Stecch, told her class that someday school nursing would be a wonderful specialty because professional nurses could promote good health and teach the importance of early detection and treating diseases before they progress to something serious or life changing.

In 1988, soon after she started working as the school nurse at Pelham High School, Barbara got involved in the health curriculum and insisted that procedures like breast self-exams and testicular self-exams be taught in the students’ health classes.  These types of cancers are treatable and even curable when caught early, but up until then school nurses had not been providing their students with this critical knowledge that could protect their lives.  In the years that followed, Barbara heard from at least three former students who had practiced the procedures, and who were cured after discovering cancerous lumps because they had received prompt treatment before the cancer had a chance to spread.

Mrs. Campbell promotes wellness programs for the staff at PHS, as well.  The list of programs she has coordinated includes:  a Weight Watchers at Work program, a walking club that is still walking, and informational workshops on concussions and stress management.  She has also coordinated a wellness program for students with the help of the Pelham school district’s dietician and Dr. Kodali, a local physician, to promote healthy lifestyle changes including:  increasing physical activity, making healthier food choices, lowering caloric intake to reduce body weight, and maintaining weight loss.  This program was successful for a number of the participants who reported making healthy changes that, years later, are still a part of their lifestyles.

To her great credit, and in keeping with her philosophy of lifetime learning and achievement, Barbara studied for and passed the National School Nurse certification exam in 2009.

When she first started working as a school nurse, Mrs. Campbell recommended CPR and First Aid training as something all coaches and gym teachers should have; it is now required by the NHIAA for coaches, and the number of teachers at PHS who are certified in CPR and First Aid has increased significantly since Barbara began providing the training.

Never did Barbara think she would be the on the receiving end of these skills until, on October 27, 2005, she collapsed in her office from a heart attack.  A physical education teacher named Judy Metz whom Barbara had trained in CPR, a local policewoman, and the Pelham Fire Department all worked to save her life.  After remaining in a coma in ICU for a week, Barbara eventually made a full recovery thanks to the quick response of the rescue team, and returned to work within six weeks.  As Barbara says, she was fortunate that day that the Fire Rescue Squad was not out on another call and their response time was fast, because she needed to be defibrillated 3 times on her way to Lowell General Hospital.  After she returned to work, Barbara rallied to get AEDs donated to all the schools and various community organizations; all Pelham schools now have an AED in their buildings.

Incredibly, Barbara experienced a second attack on February 7, 2007.  After returning home from the town’s deliberative session, she had another cardiac arrest and had to be given CPR by her husband Glenn (whom she describes as her rock and the love of her life), followed by advanced life support – for the second time – by the Pelham Fire Department to whom she will be forever grateful.  She returned to work within a month after her attack, since she missed her work and “her kids.”  Mrs. Campbell feels that Pelham is fortunate to have such a tremendous rescue team.  She always gives a special thanks to her rescuers Jim Foley and Dan Farwell, whom she considers to be heroes.

On April 9, the PHS staff celebrated Barbara’s achievement at a reception held for her after school in the library; one of her colleagues read the following to Barbara:

In glancing through the letters of recommendation written by several of your colleagues in support of your nomination for the NH School Nurse of the Year, I couldn’t help but notice certain words that were repeatedly used to describe you; words like:  knowledgeable, confident, caring, professional, dedicated, selfless, thoughtful, diligent, commendable, reflective, concise, thorough, compassionate, funny, comforting, sincere, courteous, friendly, committed, genuine and irreplaceable.

All of these adjectives describe you well, Barbara, but the words that best depict who you are and what you mean to us, are found in a phrase included in one of the letters in which the writer used a rather apt metaphor to describe you; a metaphor that contains a bit of irony, as well.  In his letter, one of your colleagues affectionately refers to you as “The Heartbeat of Pelham High School.”  And, indeed you are, Barbara.  Because, in spite of all you have been through with your own human heart, you continue to share it with everyone with whom you come in contact both inside and outside of this building; be it in your role as school nurse or as a member of the Pelham community.  In more ways than one, Barbara, yours is an extraordinary heart.  And now you have won over the entire state with it!

Mrs. Campbell received her NH School Nurse of the Year award at the spring conference of the NH School Nurses Association on April 6, and will also be honored at the Excellence in Education Awards (the “EDies”) dinner on June 8.

Mrs. Campbell said she is grateful to the Pelham community for the honor of caring for their children for the past 25 years:  “It has been an awesome responsibility that I take very seriously and in which I take great pride.  I am not finished yet, as I plan to work for four or five more years, as my health permits.  This job has fulfilled my professional life and kept me young at heart.”