Jeannetta Altenburg receives Nurse of the Year award at Don Lugo

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Photo Courtesy of Jeanetta Altenburg

Mrs. Altenburg stands with Chona Wroth, RN, from CVUSD.

Megan Robinson

Every year a nurse at Don Antonio Lugo is titled “Nurse of the year,” recognizing one of the many exceptional nurses that work at the school, and last year the 2020 award went to Jeannetta Altenburg.

2020 was a whirlwind of challenges, she went from tending to students at school to COVID-19 causing everybody to attend school from home. Her job became different and she received many obstacles yet her passion for what she does did not end amidst the pandemic. She instead received another award for Nurse of the year and rightfully so.

“I work with an extraordinary group of caring, smart, and skilled nurses and love what I do, and to be honored as Nurse of the Year was an amazing honor.  This is the second time I have won this award and I was nominated by my fellow nurses who know the work we all do is special,” Nurse Altenburg says, thanking all of Don Lugo for giving her this opportunity.

Nurse Altenburg decided to study nursing for many reasons- she liked helping people, science, and how the body works. “I decided against medicine because I wanted to be present with people in their health journey and not lead/guide the health journey as a physician usually does. It’s also a great career choice for long time employability.  And I have never been sorry that it was the path I chose.”

Her usual school day is a combination of planned and unplanned events and activities.  When students were all on campus she spent most of the day with them. She helped students be and do their best every single day whether physically or mentally. “I am not an administrator, so students talk to me about all kinds of things they are dealing with and we together come up with a plan to improve things,” she says. Every student’s mental and physical health is very important to her because she wants everyone to be their very best.

When she is tending to the physical health of students this usually consists of: students that need medications, helping to manage health problems, IEP’s and those dealing with injuries. She also does a lot of health-related education with students, staff, and administration so that students all can be as safe as possible on campus.

With COVID-19 occurring later in the year her job became different than it was at the beginning of 2020. She shares her perspective and says,  “My heart hurts for the loved ones we have lost, and I am concerned for those who have or will have COVID and the health concerns that may stay with them, but I am encouraged by all the people who have tried to work together to keep us all safe.  My whole career has been one of standing alongside ill people and battling for their health- in this circumstance, everyone has a better picture of who nurses are, what we do, and the grit it takes to do a nursing job,” she says. Altenburg believes that as individuals and as a society, the pandemic has taught a lot about what parts of life are most important. She hopes that she has learned all the lessons that needed to be learned.

She loves her job as a school nurse, particularly because she enjoys the students.  “I previously was a nurse for students and kids with cancer,” she shares. “I loved that part of my career as well, but it was challenging as my students faced life-altering diseases.  But as a whole, they approached cancer with fight and determination and a fierce desire to live and I am a better person for walking the road with them.” It was hard, as serious conditions with her DAL kids are hard now as well.  Altenburg thinks that fighting those kinds of battles are the most challenging.

She wanted to share to Don Lugo, saying, “I am so proud of all of you who have taken on the challenges of this crazy and unique year- the school is harder this way, we miss each other, we all want to get back to being safe on campus and it has been hard.  But you are facing things with strength, creativity, hard work, some tears sometimes, and a strength of will that is amazing.  On your very worse day, don’t let the bothersome things of this year win.  Plan ahead set your goals, and make the world let you reach them.”