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The Health Hero of Spero: Get to know Nurse Roxann

It’s the first week of May, and that means two things: Teacher Appreciation and Nurse Appreciation. These two weeks overlap one another, with Teacher Appreciation running from May 4th through May 8th, and Nurses Week running from May 6th through May 12th. And here at Spero Academy, we have reason to celebrate both!

Spero Academy has always depended on the cooperative work of educators and health personnel to provide the safest learning space for each student. With Minnesota schools closed through the end of the year, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, there's no better time than right now to thank a nurse. 

As a small but rapidly growing charter school, we are fortunate to have a full-time registered nurse onsite, and we’d like to take a moment to honor and appreciate our own school nurse, Roxann Manaen, and all that she brings to Spero Academy.

So who is Nurse Roxann?

Roxann joined us in the Spring of 2018, and in just over two years, has become a reliable and reassuring fixture of Spero student wellness. But we’ll let her tell you how she came to choose nursing and how she came to find herself at Spero:

Hospitals have intrigued me ever since I was in one getting emergency surgery at the age of 13. First I became a candy striper, where I learned that cheering people up by doing small things made a difference for those who were suffering. 

Later I became a Health Unit Coordinator where I saw the real buzz of the hospital goings on between doctors and nurses and nurses with patients.  It was a world unto its own and I found myself at home there. 

Then in 1978 I had the opportunity to go overseas to Nepal for a short-term mission’s assignment.  On the flight back home there was a yearning in my soul to return but I knew two things: I couldn’t go back alone and I needed more training.  

The natural choice for me was to choose nursing school and it wouldn’t hurt too that my father wanted one of his daughters to choose the profession, which none had. So, I applied and got into Lutheran Deaconess School of Nursing. In those days they still had three-year hospital nursing programs, and at that program you did your college courses at Augsburg College. 

In the throes of working as a health unit coordinator and going to nursing school, I married the person with whom I would eventually return to Nepal. But from 1978 to 1999, when we picked up our family of five to go, I had gone through my nurse’s training, passed my boards and ended up working at Abbott Northwestern Hospital as a Registered Nurse in the units of Renal/dialysis. I was a float nurse, meaning I went wherever there was a need from the nursery to step down critical care, and the Cardiac/ heart transplant units before resigning to go overseas.  

Overseas, I was asked to run the missionary hospital’s intensive care unit, but declined to help our children adjust, but I did do some community health work. During our years in Nepal I actually ended up starting and establishing the American Language Academy to teach English as a second language. Later, when we moved to India, I helped set up and run rural day health clinics with a small rural hospital and was on their board.   

On returning, my husband and I started a non-profit called Nepali Ministries International so we could continue community health work, among other ministry work. Part of the community health work is supporting two young nurses at the hospital so they can go on for continuing education. 

When we returned from India in 2014 it was a challenge for me re-entering the world of medicine at a hospital, so I first became a contract nurse to get my feet wet, so to say.  When it was time for something closer to home, I found Spero on an online sight. One of the community things my husband and I had done while overseas was starting a children’s home and the thought of working with children again drew me in to apply.

Of course, our students know Nurse Roxann as that smiling face and chipper voice that greets them when they come in for daily medication, or when recess is cut short by a bump on the head or a scrape on the knee.

“What I do is to assess and treat injuries but mostly listen to what hurts,” says Roxann, “I love being able to see smiles when initially there may be tears or pain.”   

With Spero’s mission to provide compassionate, individualized learning and our emphasis on programming for students with disabilities, there is a lot of unseen work that goes into being a Spero School Nurse. From IEP health evaluations, to individual student health plans, Nurse Roxann is busy both on the frontlines and behind the scenes! We asked: “what are some of the most important tasks of a Spero School Nurse?” And here’s what she had to say:

There are the routine necessary things like reviewing health records, collecting and entering data and filing, writing up health reports, managing & monitoring student medications as well as giving medications and monitoring the student's response. Communicating with parents/guardians about health concerns, giving updates or asking [and] answering questions. Getting their perspective or giving out information is key to knowing and caring for our students better. [And] there is all the prep work in starting a new school year and ending one.  

In addition to her health expertise and years of work as a clinical nurse, Roxann brings a warmth to the health office that is felt by students, staff, and parents alike. She takes her time when communicating with those she serves. Conversations with parents, whether over the phone or in person, are never rushed and never one-sided. She takes the time to listen and absorb, while offering pieces of her own life and experiences. 

We see the same connection with school staff who stop in with a health concern, seeking advice about steps to take and when to pursue care. These visits often become conversations about family, living situation, and personal interests. It is her natural bedside manner and personable nature that has quickly made Roxann a fixture of security and dependability in her two years at Spero. 

“Coming to Spero was a gift,” says Roxann, “and now working at Spero is part of what enriches my story.” 

Spero Academy thanks nurses and health professionals everywhere, especially those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Here are a few ways that you can help support nurses during this time:

  • STAY HOME except for essential travel
  • If you are sick, STAY HOME except to get medical care
  • Before visiting a clinic, call your health provider or use a self diagnostic tool, like the Self-Checker from the CDC
  • Donate to a non-profit hospital or The Allina Health Caring for Caregivers Fund