Born in England, Catherine Loiselle met and married an American serviceman, then emigrated to the United States where she planted strong roots living, working, and raising a family in Maine. Although happily tied to her adopted homeland, Cathy and her husband - who serves in the Air Guard – frequently travel to England to visit family and to Puerto Rico where her husband’s current service is based. Island life offers a comfortable lifestyle where they enjoy warm beaches, water sports, and weekend treks in the tropics.
After earning a BA in Psychology at UNH, Loiselle opted for social work, initially studying for a degree until a long-felt pull towards the medical aspect of human health prompted her to switch to a nursing degree from the University of New England. After working a few years as a hospital staff nurse, she accepted a position as a school nurse where Cathy discovered a long-term passion for community health. This new direction inspired her to return to the University of New England and earn a master’s degree in Public Health, gaining a solid foundation in her newly chosen path.
Cathy believes that her multiple degrees and varied work experience were good preparation for work in the school system. She chuckles at the public perception that school nurses sit quietly in their office administering simple medicines and treatments for burns, cuts, and fevers. Today’s school nurse is always in triage to handle the incoming flow of medical events ranging from first-aid, asthma, feeding tubes, and catheters to medication regimens, diabetes care, allergies, and disease monitoring. They must also adhere to school administrative requests, fulfill state reporting requirements and manage student health records as well as administer screening clinics, prepare student health plans and provide the services of a health educator.
"Although I have served all ages, I enjoy middle school the most. Sixth graders require a lot of support but by eighth grade, many have matured enough to handle their own care. I like being part of that transition from dependence to independence."
The pandemic hurriedly ushered in a new set of variables that dominated the workday. Closed by early spring 2020, the school reopened in the fall under a hybrid model that demanded constant attention to assessment, monitoring, and evolving guidelines while managing staff fears of classroom contagion and parental pushback on quarantines and restrictions.
"Our response to the pandemic fostered a sense of teamwork and collaboration as we forged into new areas to develop policies, protocols, disease surveillance, and monitoring."
Despite the public health crisis, Cathy completed her DNP degree from UNH Online in May 2021. She enjoyed the scholarly but robust program with its small cohort style that fostered a satisfying level of interactive teamwork. The DNP training opened the door to a new interest in shaping health care policy in areas such as standardized baseline processes for all school nurses and the incorporation of contemporary skills in data analysis and informatics.
"Online learning is the way of the future in education. It is a gold currency that provides students a way to grow and develop in their field while maintaining their personal and professional obligations. I appreciated the faculty’s flexibility and commitment to communication."
In the school system, Loiselle was often a preceptor for nursing students completing their clinical in community health, a skill that paved the way to a part-time position as a lecturer for the Nursing Department at the University of Southern Maine. In her (online) classroom she tries to harness the “keen spark” of student excitement by encouraging their energy and promoting their confidence while teaching them excellent nursing skills.
"All nurses are partners in a medical team and should be received with equal respect. Nurses need to advocate for their profession and push forward in the pursuit of advancement and recognition."
Despite the dizzying array of medical situations that she has managed as a school nurse, Cathy knows the best medicine is being outdoors so she enjoys kayaking, swimming, jet-skiing, and walking her dogs. If she can impart to students an awareness of nature as the best medicine, she can return home with the satisfaction of practicing good community health nursing.
Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet