nurses students at alma mater
By Bill McCauley
When Gail Short attended school in Bridgeville, she "hopped out of
bed and into her classroom," as her school was right across the street.
That was when grades 1 through 12 were all in one building.
"It was great for school activities. I was home essentially," commented
Short, a 1969 graduate of Bridgeville High and for the past 11 years
school nurse for grades 7 through 12 at Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville.
Her parents, Robert and Jean Short, still reside in their home at
Edgewood Street from where Gail, for all 12 years of school, was able
to make her lightning dash. Besides school chums the growing girl
had two brothers and a sister.
The school activities, for which she found her home such a convenient
base, included cheerleading and student council. The active teenager
worked part-time at the Bridgeville Tastee-Freeze, the site now of
She fondly remembers it as "a place where students went to have hamburgers
and sodas after a game. Mr. Gilbert (the owner) gave out free ice
cream cones after we won a game."
Nor did young Short work just for spending money. She saved it, starting
at age 15, to earn money to attend nursing school upon graduation.
Of her memories of school years she says, "You cannot have gone through
Bridgeville High without remembering Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Littrell.
I credit Mr. Reynolds for helping me ace college English." She explains
that the Wilmington School of Nursing which she attended required
its students to take English and history through the University of
Delaware. The high school's media center is named for Norman Reynolds
and the new science lab is named for Merritt Littrell.
The year 1970 saw the aspiring nurse graduate from a two-year registered
nurse diploma course. Of nursing degrees she says that a nurse practitioner
has a specialty such as geriatrics. "I'm not sure that is a course
I would want to follow," adds Short.
A bachelor's degree in education from Millersville State College at
Millersville, Pa., followed in 1979. Short was working as school nurse
at A. I. DuPont School in Wilmington and Millersville had a nursing
program geared especially to school nurses.
"We had a great group of nurses. We quizzed each other as the four
of us drove to the evening class at Millersville. When we had a big
exam coming, we could drill each other to prepare ourselves. We were
all school nurses who knew each other and we were taking the same
course to get a degree."
With a seeming affinity for graduation years ending in 9, Short received
a master's degree in 1989 in human resources management from Wilmington
College. At the same time she began her career as school nurse with
Woodbridge. She was named state School Nurse of the Year in 1999.
Asked what differences she sees between Woodbridge's middle-high school
building when she was a student and now, she replies unhesitatingly,
"I have a beautiful office! Earlier we had a little space for the
school nurse but with remodeling they gave me new office space, much
larger than before."
She enjoys, too, being right down the hall from the Wellness Center.
Of changes other than bricks and mortar, she says thoughtfully, "Needs
of children have changed; family dynamics have changed. There are
more homes with single parents or where both parents are working that
you didn't see in the '60s.
are faced with a lot more stress today than they were then. Peer pressures
of smoking, alcohol use, drugs and early sexual behavior were not
there in the '60s. Drugs didn't start until the '70s when I was out
"Children have to deal with decision making that we didn't have. I
think we hit our children with too much too fast. We should let them
be children longer," she added.
Short's voice noticeably brightens when the subject turns to the Bridgeville
she knew as a student and now. She says, "Community support for the
school has not changed. It was very evident during our football playing
season. I believe my being chosen Nurse of the Year at the state level
was the result of having the support of Bridgeville. All the nurses
had outstanding records.
"The students and staff here create a supportive environment. My students
made a video of me as a school nurse that demonstrated their feelings
toward me. They didn't have to do that, and at another school would
not have. It's just something indescribable that you can't put in
words, the support in the school and community at large."
Short lives with her husband, John Baker (on marrying she retained
her maiden name) just off Route 40 on Redden Road. She has two step-children,
Alex and Andy, both grown.
She and her husband have a 33-acre farm where they have a training
track for standardbred horses. Asked what she does with the horses,
she laughs, "I help clean the stalls and feed the horses."
She tells of the sweatshirt she received this Christmas from her mother.
"It reads, ‘Barn Goddess' and pictures a manure bucket and pitchfork."
Then she adds, "It's great fun and it's relaxing."
Short describes her work as school nurse and the cycle she follows:
Vision and hearing are tested, and orthopedic screening (curvature
of the spine) is done every year with seventh, eighth and ninth graders.
In grades eight and 10, every year she tests each student's vision
and hearing. She also tests children's hearts, mainly in the seventh
and ninth grades, the years they take health classes.
Her activities with children include the administration of medication
and first aid for sickness and injuries. Her work day includes "lots
and lots of health counsel, and I try to make contacts with parents
as often as I can. I work closely with community agencies and family
physicians as well as the Wellness Center."
In addition to other testing, Short operates a cardio pulmonary resuscitation
instrument with the American Heart Association.
She speaks highly of the work of Edith Vincent, who she says gave
her whole life-work of 40 years as a supervisor of school nurses and
school health services. "I would like to credit her as the mentor
to where the school nurse program is today."
In addition to Vincent she cites another primary reason for the success
of the state school nurse program: "The legislature has been very
advanced in their thinking on school nursing in putting families and
children first. I think they should be applauded for this."