Bridgeville Events
Thursday, January 6th, 2000
Short nurses students at alma mater
By Bill McCauley
When Gail Short attended school in Bridgeville, she "hopped out of bed and into her classroom," as her school was right across the street. That was when grades 1 through 12 were all in one building.
"It was great for school activities. I was home essentially," commented Short, a 1969 graduate of Bridgeville High and for the past 11 years school nurse for grades 7 through 12 at Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville.
Her parents, Robert and Jean Short, still reside in their home at Edgewood Street from where Gail, for all 12 years of school, was able to make her lightning dash. Besides school chums the growing girl had two brothers and a sister.
The school activities, for which she found her home such a convenient base, included cheerleading and student council. The active teenager worked part-time at the Bridgeville Tastee-Freeze, the site now of Jimmy's Grille.
She fondly remembers it as "a place where students went to have hamburgers and sodas after a game. Mr. Gilbert (the owner) gave out free ice cream cones after we won a game."
Nor did young Short work just for spending money. She saved it, starting at age 15, to earn money to attend nursing school upon graduation.
Of her memories of school years she says, "You cannot have gone through Bridgeville High without remembering Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Littrell. I credit Mr. Reynolds for helping me ace college English." She explains that the Wilmington School of Nursing which she attended required its students to take English and history through the University of Delaware. The high school's media center is named for Norman Reynolds and the new science lab is named for Merritt Littrell.
The year 1970 saw the aspiring nurse graduate from a two-year registered nurse diploma course. Of nursing degrees she says that a nurse practitioner has a specialty such as geriatrics. "I'm not sure that is a course I would want to follow," adds Short.
A bachelor's degree in education from Millersville State College at Millersville, Pa., followed in 1979. Short was working as school nurse at A. I. DuPont School in Wilmington and Millersville had a nursing program geared especially to school nurses.
"We had a great group of nurses. We quizzed each other as the four of us drove to the evening class at Millersville. When we had a big exam coming, we could drill each other to prepare ourselves. We were all school nurses who knew each other and we were taking the same course to get a degree."
With a seeming affinity for graduation years ending in 9, Short received a master's degree in 1989 in human resources management from Wilmington College. At the same time she began her career as school nurse with Woodbridge. She was named state School Nurse of the Year in 1999.
Asked what differences she sees between Woodbridge's middle-high school building when she was a student and now, she replies unhesitatingly, "I have a beautiful office! Earlier we had a little space for the school nurse but with remodeling they gave me new office space, much larger than before."
She enjoys, too, being right down the hall from the Wellness Center.
Of changes other than bricks and mortar, she says thoughtfully, "Needs of children have changed; family dynamics have changed. There are more homes with single parents or where both parents are working that you didn't see in the '60s.
Children are faced with a lot more stress today than they were then. Peer pressures of smoking, alcohol use, drugs and early sexual behavior were not there in the '60s. Drugs didn't start until the '70s when I was out of school.
"Children have to deal with decision making that we didn't have. I think we hit our children with too much too fast. We should let them be children longer," she added.
Short's voice noticeably brightens when the subject turns to the Bridgeville she knew as a student and now. She says, "Community support for the school has not changed. It was very evident during our football playing season. I believe my being chosen Nurse of the Year at the state level was the result of having the support of Bridgeville. All the nurses had outstanding records.
"The students and staff here create a supportive environment. My students made a video of me as a school nurse that demonstrated their feelings toward me. They didn't have to do that, and at another school would not have. It's just something indescribable that you can't put in words, the support in the school and community at large."
Short lives with her husband, John Baker (on marrying she retained her maiden name) just off Route 40 on Redden Road. She has two step-children, Alex and Andy, both grown.
She and her husband have a 33-acre farm where they have a training track for standardbred horses. Asked what she does with the horses, she laughs, "I help clean the stalls and feed the horses."
She tells of the sweatshirt she received this Christmas from her mother. "It reads, ‘Barn Goddess' and pictures a manure bucket and pitchfork." Then she adds, "It's great fun and it's relaxing."
Short describes her work as school nurse and the cycle she follows: Vision and hearing are tested, and orthopedic screening (curvature of the spine) is done every year with seventh, eighth and ninth graders.
In grades eight and 10, every year she tests each student's vision and hearing. She also tests children's hearts, mainly in the seventh and ninth grades, the years they take health classes.
Her activities with children include the administration of medication and first aid for sickness and injuries. Her work day includes "lots and lots of health counsel, and I try to make contacts with parents as often as I can. I work closely with community agencies and family physicians as well as the Wellness Center."
In addition to other testing, Short operates a cardio pulmonary resuscitation instrument with the American Heart Association.
She speaks highly of the work of Edith Vincent, who she says gave her whole life-work of 40 years as a supervisor of school nurses and school health services. "I would like to credit her as the mentor to where the school nurse program is today."
In addition to Vincent she cites another primary reason for the success of the state school nurse program: "The legislature has been very advanced in their thinking on school nursing in putting families and children first. I think they should be applauded for this."