Christine Hardin never doubted she wanted to be a nurse.
“It’s kind of one of those things that I had always thought about doing,” Hardin said. “I had always wanted to be a nurse, helping those that need to be helped, helping those that can’t help themselves.”
After a move from St. Louis to Woodstock a little more than 13 years ago, the opportunity to explore a new area of nursing fell into Hardin’s lap, quite literally.
Her son, Zachary, in kindergarten at the time, handed her a flyer from school with an advertisement for a nurse to ride the bus with a student with medical needs.
Her part-time gig quickly turned full-time as she began her new station to care for children with significant medical needs who also have varying degrees of developmental delays.
Now a Life Skills Program nurse at Greenwood Elementary School in Woodstock, Hardin spends her days tending to the 17 students currently in the program ranging from ages 3 to 6 years old. Hardin performs such tasks as tube-feeding, breathing treatments, suctioning and seizure-monitoring on a daily basis.
What Hardin considers as just part of her job, others consider quite a feat.
“She’s dedicated,” co-worker and Early Childhood Life Skills teacher Jeanette Letmanski said. “When people think of a school nurse, they might think of just ice packs or Band-Aids, but she’s above and beyond that. These kids are hesitant to start school and she is one of the first people they meet. She’s kind, gentle, down-to-earth and trustworthy.”
Director of Nursing and Health Services for District 200, Lisa Tate, also is a fan of Hardin’s work. Tate nominated Hardin as one of the Everyday Heroes.
Tate credits Hardin with doing an outstanding job with the district’s medically fragile students as well as developing many of the nursing protocols used in their program.
“She’s so compassionate and she really cares about her students,” said Hardin’s husband, Doug. “She’s a real leader and provides a lot of guidance over the staff and they really value her input and opinion. When she sees an issue that isn’t really part of her job description, she involves herself anyway to try and make the life of the child better.”
Doug said his wife’s ability to make order out of chaos is a heroic quality his wife posseses. As the husband of a nurse who cares for children with complex medical needs, he spends a lot of time around the children and their families. He said he sees the parents as heroes given all that they have to deal with to ensure their child’s quality of life.
“She’s willing to work with students or patients that people may shy away from,” Letmanski said. “It’s not a field a lot of people feel comfortable with. She’s willing to give every little extra concern she has to make sure the kids are in a safe place and doing their best.”
Though her job presents her with certain challenges, Hardin said she does not feel like a hero and credits the kids and their parents with the real bravery.
“These kids are just so amazing,” Hardin said. “They teach me something new every day. From the outside looking in, you might have pity, and they may be going through a bad time but they always smile and cheer you up. And the parents are just as amazing for what they face with their child on a daily basis.”