School nurse retires after 14 years of helping students stay safe and manage stress

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Originally published on June 7, 2015

Nurse Maryann Rainey retired after this spring semester after 14 years at Lowell. Photo by Leonard Caoili

Tea. Band-Aids. Condoms. These are just some of the items students might go to nurse Maryann Rainey’s office for. But starting next year, a new nurse will be taking Rainey’s position, as she is retired at the end of this school year.

Since Rainey first joined the Lowell staff in January 2001, the Wellness Center at school has grown with the creation of the Food and Fitness Fair, Zumba dancing classes and the stress bulletin located in Room 129. “The fair is a way of continuing education outside of the classroom,” Rainey said. “It allows students to be the experts. Students are at the tables explaining diabetes and handing out fruits and vegetables.”

“It could be about getting glasses, boyfriend issues, what to say at doctor appointments or the freshmen feeling like OMG.”

Throughout the years, Rainey has loved connecting with students during countless sessions and conversations with them. “Sometimes parents are annoying to their daughters and sons, but having another adult to talk with about what’s bothering you is helpful for problem solving,” she said. “It could be about getting glasses, boyfriend issues, what to say at doctor appointments or the freshmen feeling like OMG.”

Rainey believes that one of the funniest moments of her career was the condom demonstration at Lovefest, the Wellness Center’s annual Valentine’s Day fair. “The students had many different reactions,” she said. “At first, they would say ‘No, I don’t want to do it,’ but then they would say ‘Yes, I do.’ There is a natural interest in it. Students usually wonder, ‘Is it public or private?’ The condoms are a way of staying safe and healthy as you move into adult activities.”

After previously working in a hospital during the AIDS epidemic, Rainey sees the importance of introducing students to condoms. “At the hospital, many people that came in sick were dead the next morning because of HIV,” she said. “The lack of condoms had a lot to do with the spread of HIV, so I know how important it is to be safe. It allows for more intimacy without feeling scared.”

“Enjoy life and give yourself a sense of peace.”

At school, Rainey, a member of the San Francisco Wellness Initiative, works closely with Wellness Center members. They each have different roles and act as a team. “If Xavier has a student who comes to him with a stomachache, he might refer him to me,” she said.

Wellness centers in the entire San Francisco Unified School District have also changed and improved over the course of Rainey’s career. When Rainey initially joined, Lowell had one of the first four wellness centers in the District. Currently there are 19 wellness centers and many specialized health clinics for teens. By having more options to recommend, Rainey is able to refer students to the most suitable clinic.

“Leaving is bittersweet. I am really going to miss the students, but the sweet part is having complete control of my time.”

During her Lowell career, Rainey has made lasting bonds with the school. “Leaving is bittersweet,” she said. “I am really going to miss the students, but the sweet part is having complete control of my time. I love students’ willingness to be thoughtful and the mixture of kids, since many come from different backgrounds.”

Rainey’s last piece of advice expressed her hopes that students continue to manage stress in a positive way and to practice managing stress. “Enjoy life and give yourself a sense of peace,” she said.