Meet the Director of School Health Services.
Elizabeth Quaratiello, BSN, RN, NCSN has been the Director of School Health Services since August 2021. This is a newly-created position in Somerville Public Schools.
What attracted you to this position?
This position is really a combination of the two things I’m most dedicated to, specifically public health and school nursing.
What were you doing before you took this role?
I worked for the Somerville Health Department for seven years as a public health nurse and nurse manager. I worked for the City of Cambridge as a public health nurse. And I worked as a school nurse at the West Somerville [Neighborhood School] for about ten years. I started in this position last August , a week before students returned to schools and in-person learning.
What do you like about nursing and working in public health?
I think that public health is really interesting because that’s where you do things that are helpful to whole communities of people, not only to individuals.
I believe that school nurses are public health providers. They are looking at the individual child, but they’re also thinking about the fact that this child is in a community. They ask themselves, “How do we keep everybody safe and healthy?” When we’re talking about communicable diseases, those affect whole communities, whole classrooms, whole schools - not just individuals. We think about the child in that context, which is quite different from normal pediatrics, where you’re focused on that one individual child.
What do you do in this role?
I was hired to help coordinate the response to COVID when all students went back to in-person learning, to write policies and procedures for non-COVID health issues, and to help the nurses transition from the health department to the school department.
These days, I continue to coordinate vaccine clinics. I work on protocols around all kinds of non-COVID health issues that we deal with on a daily basis. I work with the nurse manager, Karen Hart, and school nurses in conjunction with other departments to ensure the health and safety of students, whether this means figuring out food allergy protocols, vision and hearing screenings, or enrollment issues.
Do you work with students directly?
I’m really behind the scenes but I do work with nurses to troubleshoot and to answer questions. I also talk to school principals and staff members who might need clarification. I sometimes just think through things with people, usually nurses.
What are some of the challenges of your role?
We have to comply with a lot of state regulations. I figure out how we can have field trips that comply with state regulations that are not onerous for the nurses. Things like that are tough right now. It’s important to set policies that are going to work in real life.
Have there been any surprises in your new role?
Every day. I think about how many great colleagues I have, and how many of them are so committed to wanting things to work out and succeed and to wanting school to be a really positive and happy experience. It’s been a constant revelation to me that people are so unified in that. It’s inspiring to see.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my family and pets and I enjoy swimming, boating, and being outside.
Visit the School Nursing webpage to find your school nurse and to learn more about nursing in Somerville Public Schools.