Spring 2022, I was honored and excited to be surrounded by fellow School Nurses at a local conference. You see, school nursing is an entirely different animal than hospital or clinic nursing. Most days, you are the only medical expert in the building and don’t often have the opportunity for real time collaboration with fellow nurses, so this was truly a fun treat.
H.B. 162, better known as the Period Project, had recently passed in the 2022 legislative session. This bill requires school districts and charter schools to provide free period products in certain restrooms within all school facilities. At the time, I was thrilled to hear such a wonderful nonpartisan bill (passed unanimously!) was being enacted to support students in schools. I had immediately jumped into action and read through the bill, only to find it did not include private schools. This meant, for Waterford to join in, we would need to find our own funding. I wasn’t the only one excited about the new legislation, students from Class of 2022 and our incredible Dean of Students, Nancy Nebeker, also reached out to discuss how Waterford could be a part of the program. We have always offered period products in our nursing and front office, but this additional step leaving the restroom to ask for a product was a reported barrier for our students to what they needed to get back to class and ready to learn. We collaborated, tossed around many creative solutions, reached out to community partners (thank you, Beth Hamideh!), but couldn’t find an easy or appropriate solution.
Back to the conference. A break had just wrapped and I was seated with my new friends and collaborators when Emily Bell McCormick, the founder of the Period Project, was introduced. Ms. Bell McCormick was a lively and engaged speaker, there to share her experiences on the Hill and answer the questions of the nurses that would be integral in the enactment of the new legislation throughout the state. One anecdote from the Hill was a huge eye opener for me. A lawmaker asked something along the lines of, “Why can’t girls hold it until they get the product they need?”. If most schools have period products in the front office, why can’t the students just hold it and walk down to the office to get what they need? The question stunned me.
A core component of nursing is providing education. We are taught from day one of nursing school that without education, those under our care are simply being given a bandaid. When what they actually need is knowledge and information to fully understand their medical needs to be able to take agency and live well moving forward. Menstruation is something 50% of the population is dealing with monthly, yet many are not properly educated in the care of it. A core concept of School Nursing is that a child must be healthy to be educated and educated to be healthy. In a recent survey, it was reported 84% of students have missed class or know someone who has missed class due to a lack of access to period products. 51% of students feel like their school does not care about them if they do not provide period products in their bathrooms. As a nurse, I feel having access to period products in the restrooms at school is both a health and education issue. It is also evidence of a school’s care and support of students. Our students deserve to not miss the invaluable class time Waterford teachers so carefully prepare for them.
Fast forward to today. Waterford has officially joined the movement! Thanks to a generous and kind donor, Aunt Flow dispensers have been installed in each girls’ and single-stall restrooms on campus by our building supervisor, Camilo Castillo and crew. In Lower School, the dispensers are located in the girls’ restrooms available to our IV, and V students and will dispense pads only. These dispensers provide free period products when students need them and where they need them. Our students in action, Auden S. ’24 and Olivia W. ‘23 organized the initial filing of the dispensers and helped support this important project. Auden shared why this project mattered so much to her, “Having complementary period products in the women’s bathroom at Waterford is important to me because it shows the women at this school that Waterford cares about their health and well-being. Going to such a rigorous school, the added stress of having to worry about getting your period or having enough products to last you the day is something that we should not have to deal with. Having the products allows us to have that stress taken off. It means a lot to have the school acknowledge this struggle and do something about it so willingly.” Additionally, Olivia shared the importance of this project by stating, “I believe that having access to free period products is a right for women …without this access, women are subject to embarrassment over their own bodies, something that should never happen.”
When asked what prompted their generous donation, our thoughtful donor offered this, “It’s been incredible to see what The Policy Project has done this past year, outfitting each and every public and charter school in Utah with access to free period products for grades K-XII. Because Waterford is a private school, it was not included in this statewide initiative. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to raise the bar at Waterford and set a standard for other private schools to follow by properly outfitting our restrooms with access to free period products. Having two girls of my own, I think it’s important to remove social stigmas and barriers around obtaining period products. In keeping with Waterford’s spirit of giving, our family is delighted to outfit all female bathrooms on campus with Aunt Flow machines which dispense free, organic and essential period products.”
A heartfelt thank you to all involved, especially to our students in action, Auden and Olivia, and the benevolent donor family that paved the way. We are truly a caring and kind community here at Waterford. To all of our students, we are committed to supporting your success here at Waterford and beyond.
With a gratitude and kindness,
Katherine Stokes, BSN, RN, NCSNWaterford School Nurse and Wellness Coordinator
Katherine Stokes holds a Master of Science in Nursing and is Board Certified Nationally as a School Nurse. Katherine became a Registered Nurse in 2006. Her past experience includes caring for patients in the Medical/Surgical Unit, Shock/Trauma ICU, Pediatric and Cardiac ICUs, Tele ICU, and administrative nursing. Most of her nursing career was dedicated to serving pediatric patients at Primary Children’s Hospital. There she completed four advanced education modules to become a specialist in caring for children of all ages with cardiac, metabolic, traumatic, and respiratory conditions. She also became a perfusionist, specializing in operating a heart-lung bypass machine. Additionally, Katherine worked as an Employee Health nurse for Intermountain Health. There, she enjoyed creating employee wellness and injury prevention programs such as lunchtime yoga, micro breaks, and podcast-style education dedicated to employees sharing their stories and pearls of wisdom on health and wellness at work. She was also pivotal in pandemic planning and response, creating policies, protocols, and support for the employees she cared for. At Waterford, Katherine was integral in safely leading the school community through the pandemic while prioritizing on-campus learning for our students.
Katherine believes nursing is best practiced with emotional intelligence, coupled with strong medical expertise, compassion, and empathy. She desires to understand individuals and improve their lives through the simple acts of caring, listening, and educating. Katherine is passionate about advocacy for children and enabling them to live the healthiest lives possible through education, community, and connection. She feels her life’s work is to make each community she touches a little kinder, healthier, and happier. Some of her fondest memories are those at the hospital bedside connecting with patients and their families, volunteering to make burritos for unhoused individuals with her daughter for the Burrito Project, leading Girl Scout Troop 445, and being part of a small team that raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Katherine and her daughter also enjoy all things related to nature, art, food, and science. They often climb, hike, and camp along with their rescue dogs.
January 28, 2021
October 26, 2022
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