Cheryl Wagnon, special needs nurse for the Cobb County School District, was recognized in the 2017 Celebrating Nurses program for her persistent advocacy for the children.
She was specifically nominated for advocating for foster child who was wheelchair-dependent, intellectually disabled student and in chronic respiratory distress. She believed he could be helped by surgery to prevent aspiration of the stomach contents, and she stayed on the case until the need was recognized and the surgery was performed. At last report, the student was off supplemental oxygen, gaining weight and smiling.
Here’s more about
Cheryl Wagnon, RN, BCSCR
Age: 64 years young!
Current job and duties: “As a Special Needs Nurse, I am a liaison between home, school, physicians, specialty clinics, hospitals and other healthcare providers, ensuring continuity of care for medically fragile and/or medically complex students. I do this by conducting comprehensive nursing assessments, providing staff education/training, medical/social advocacy, direct care and development/facilitation and implementation of an individual healthcare plan for the student’s well-being. health, and safety.”
How long have you worked for Cobb County Schools? What did you do previously and where? “I have worked for the Cobb County School District for 25 years. Prior to CCSD, I was the Regional Medical Director for a private college where, in collaboration with a local hospital, I was tasked with developing and supervising the first Certified Patient Care Assistant program in the state. I spent 11 years as head nurse-pediatrics. My hospital experience includes charge nurse- neuro unit, post anesthesia recovery room, emergency department and medical/surgical unit.”
How long have you been a nurse? “In July, I will celebrate my 44th year in nursing.
Education: In 1974, I became a Licensed Practical Nurse. I am a proud alumna of Kennesaw State University, having earned a nursing degree (RN) in 1976. I am Board Certified in School Crisis Response and Mental Health First Aid. I am a former officer in the Georgia Association of School Nurses and an active participant in school nurse leadership consortiums. I also am the recipient of the Catalyst Award for Staff Development Programs.”
Family: “My husband Arthur, retired after 33 years as a firefighter. We have 3 children and 3 grandsons. My oldest son is a consultant. My daughter Katie is an executive and has lived in Shanghai for 15 years. She comes here, I go there, or we meet somewhere in the middle 3-4 times a year. My youngest son, Rocky, is a 2nd generation firefighter in Clayton County. He and his wife Beth have given us the three greatest gifts ever, grandsons Cal (11), Eli (10) and Noah (6).”
I got into nursing …”Several my family members were medical professionals at our local hospital. As a young teenager I couldn’t wait to volunteer as a Candy Striper. My first assignment, much to my chagrin, was to deliver mail & flowers. That was not the “exciting” job I had envisioned, after all I was of the Dr. Kildare/Ben Casey generation. However, my assignment turned out to be a blessing as it gave me access to every unit and department throughout the entire hospital, many of which were off-limits to volunteers. I was all eyes, ears and full of questions. Throughout nursing school, I thought I wanted to one day be a professor of nursing, as I really enjoyed tutoring many of my peers. At the time, little did I know, ALL nurses are teachers.”
The best part of my job … “It is not uncommon for me to follow a student with special needs from age 3 through 21. These students and their parents become my (work) family. To successfully advocate for a plan of care that will improve a student’s quality of life and help him or her reach full potential is unbelievably gratifying.”
How do you handle stress? “The beach is my happy place. If I can’t be there physically, I visualize it and count down the days until the ‘next time’.”
What do you do for outside fun? “I love to explore back roads, small towns, roadside attractions and BBQ joints. I’m like a dog, rattle the car keys and you will hear me call “shotgun.” I have lived within a few blocks of the Marietta Square my entire life so naturally I take advantage of all it has to offer such as art, music, theatre, restaurants, museums, festivals, fun-runs etc. I enjoy entertaining friends, many of whom I have known since elementary school. However, my most favorite activity is all about the Grands — sleep-overs, vacations, accompanying them to school events and extracurricular activities etc. Being a grandparent is simply the best club you will ever join.”
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to a new nurse? “A very wise nurse mentor schooled me on the importance of defining my own personal philosophy of nursing. It provides direction and motivation that ultimately affects your decisions, actions and reactions. At some point in your career, you will feel as though you have hit your stride. STOP, set new goals, rediscover your passion for nursing and inspire those around you.”