Nurse Penny Watson Works to Maintain School, Community Health

From working with patients who are under anesthesia at her hospital job to checking a student’s fever while on campus, nurse Penny Watson is on a new playing field when it comes to working in health care with COVID-19. And that field is treacherous. 

Watson continues to monitor students’ health as the school year progresses while managing lab-confirmed COVID cases, quarantine procedures and her normal duties.

This year has been a huge difference due to having to assess if we think the student or staff may have symptoms of COVID-19,” Watson said. “If we believe someone has two or more of the symptoms of COVID-19, that individual has to be sent home and follow the district’s policy and procedure to return to campus. The district is working closely with the Tarrant County Health Department on the policies and procedures.”

Watson does more than check for COVID symptoms when it comes to her work at school. The state mandates school nurses conduct hearing, vision and scoliosis screenings as well as monitor for other conditions.

“A student must be up-to-date on their immunization or have an exclusion for reasons of conscience before attending a public school,” she said. “Parents have to request this form from the State of Texas. This applies to students who are virtual during the pandemic.”

Watson is not just the school nurse. She works around the clock with different patients at the recovery unit at Mansfield Methodist hospital.

“Every day is different,” Watson said. “It is very fast paced and we see many different things in one shift. It is always changing, from a simple cold to a drug overdose and cardiac arrest.”

Although Watson said she enjoys her job, she did not always want to be a nurse. 

“I was going to college to be a CPA,” Watson said. “I decided that I would be bored sitting in an office all day not seeing or talking to people so I changed to nursing.”

She said nursing is a great profession to go into.

“As a nurse there (are) so many areas to work in,” she said. “From (the) emergency department to school nursing. Unlike other careers, if you don’t like your job, you can still be a nurse and do something totally different from management, floor nursing, clinical nursing and legal consultant.”

Over her 25 years as a nurse, Watson has performed many different jobs in the medical field. When she exited nursing school, she took a winding path to MHS, which included working for All Saints, Cook Children’s and Harris HEB.

“When Mansfield Methodist Medical Center opened, I went to work in the ER in February 2007,” she said. “After 10 years of working every Friday and Saturday night from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m., I moved to the recovery unit where I continue to work on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and nights.”

Clinic aide Adria Hoyle said Watson is extremely passionate about what she does.

“She is very knowledgeable in the healthcare field and I have learned a great deal from her,” Hoyle said. “She always has the safety of our MHS students and staff in her best interest.” 

Hoyle said although this year has been busy for Watson, she has been positive through it all.

“She has always been a pleasure to work with, but goes the extra mile to make sure we are all safe and okay,” Hoyle said. “There have even been times after a long day that she calls me at home to check on me.”

Assistant Principal Michelle Dudley said Watson is very caring and always has a great attitude.

“Nurse Watson cares so much about our staff and our students and is doing everything she can to keep us all safe,” Dudley said. “She has a tough job right now but is doing a fantastic job. Nurse Watson has a great attitude about all of this. She has a lot of people that do not understand all the protocols but she does everything she can to explain it all and make sure that everyone understands the reasoning behind it. We are lucky to have her.”

Watson said her job gives her a sense of pride and satisfaction.

At the end of the work day,” Watson said, “I know I have done a good job and have helped individuals.”