Margaret Steinhoff’s passion for nursing is as strong as it’s ever been. After 31 years of taking care of children, the Hartly Elementary School nurse is hanging up her thermometer April 13.
“I am trying to relax,” she said. “I will be 66 at the end of the month.”
Being a nurse at Hartly has been exciting for the Dover resident. The decision to leave a profession that’s brought her so much joy wasn’t easy.
“I love these children and I love their families,” she said.
There will be a farewell gathering April 12 at the school from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Over the years, Steinhoff’s had former students, staff and friends stop by her office to reminisce of the days she was their nurse or coworker.
Steinhoff wanted to be a nurse since she was five.
Her parents figured their daughter would become a nurse from the way she liked helping others.
“Whenever my little sister was injured I was the one who ran to get the Band-Aid,” she said.
Steinhoff went to college at the University of Delaware for her nursing degree, then took a position in the Milford Memorial Hospital maternity ward.
After four years at the hospital she accepted a position at Wesley College where she taught nursing. After eight years at the college, she said, she wasn’t impressed with the interaction she had with patients.
“You don’t have time to really get to know your patients well,” she said. “I like to get to know the people I work with.”
Her father, Edwin F. Englehart, was the band director and music department chair for Caesar Rodney School District from 1948 to 1983. Although wpuld have liked to follow in her father’s footsteps and work for Caesar Rodney she jumped at the opportunity at Hartly.
“All of a sudden there was this opening in the middle of a year and I had been thinking about school nursing,” she said. “I had a wonderful experience in elementary school with my school nurse. She was my role model.”
“When I first came there I thought I would only stay for 10 to 15 years,” she said.
Steinhoff’s seen many changes in education. She remembers entering her records into a paper log and recalls adjusting to an influx of special needs students.
She only wishes school nurses didn’t have to face requirements she feels are unnecessary.
“Back then the Department of Education didn’t make the demands that they make on people now,” she said. “School nurses are under the same contract as teachers because we have to have a degree.”
She said she doesn’t believe a nurse’s performance should be judged the same way as teacher, whose performance can be measured by something tangible like grades.
Once she referred students to optometrists to ensure they had healthy eyesight. But this wasn’t considered a measurable effort, she said.
“I have to show a certain percentage of the kids I referred did get to the eye doctor. If not, than I haven’t reached my goal and I haven’t succeeded,” she said. “I could get rated as 'needs improvement' even though it has nothing to do with the job.”
She has no regrets about her years as an elementary school nurse.
She’ll always encourage young student nurses to stick with it because the benefits are worth it, she said.
She plans on giving back to her community. She’s looking forward to being more involved at her church and spending quality time with her husband. He teaches at St. Thomas Moore and is retiring in June.
She said she’s going to miss making sure students are healthy and taken care of at school.
“It makes me feel really good when a child comes back and says things like ‘my headache is all gone now,’” she said. “When you’re able to help someone accomplish something like [getting their eyes checked] that in itself is very fulfilling.”