Northfield Middle and High School
Sally Kirn, the Northfield Middle and High School nurse, was in the midst of conversing with a distraught young lady when we arrived. Wearing a denim skirt, a marbled blue sweater and sipping herbal tea, Sally said her philosophy of school health is all about teaching young people how to take care of themselves. “It’s a dance. You come to my door and we dance together. Rather than focusing on sickness, we figure it out, exploring your thoughts and emotions.” Since coming to Northfield in 1998, Sally has continued to build upon this philosophy. One year she collected data to learn more about why students appeared in her office. Out of the 5,000 visits, 2,000 were injury and illness-related. The rest were much more ambiguous.
This information validated her decision to provide a space where individuals could learn more about themselves and positive coping strategies. To that end, Sally’s focus on self-care is visible in all corners of her office. Bright colored murals of African jungle animals adorn her walls. “I found them in a supply closet when I arrived and immediately wanted them because animals can be very healing for some people”, she said. Multi-colored letter magnets are available for visitors to create phrases and sentences about their feelings and thoughts. Coloring materials, health-oriented articles, poetry books, a jar of glittering water and a variety of shaded glasses to represent the different perspectives are scattered on a variety of tables and shelves.
When students come to her office, Sally encourages them to ride out their waves of emotional discomfort and to take charge of their own health. Rather than guaranteeing a solution, she offers them space to practice some deep breathing and relaxation exercises. She may turn on some new age tribal flute music to help them reduce their stress.
To take the best care of herself, Sally meditates regularly for 15 minutes and makes use of energetic healing practices. One of her colleagues described her as “My go-to person when I have questions and one who helps me to get grounded.”