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School nurse: “A fascinating mission, listening to high school students” – Brittany


Since 2011, Catherine Madec has been working as a school nurse at Dupuy-de-Lôme high school, in Brest. Its status as a paramedical staff places it at the crossroads of all the players in the establishment.

Build trust

“On a daily basis, we take care of a lot of minor injuries: stomach aches, headaches, sports exemptions,” she lists. “But in fact, there is a lot of psychological support.” The creation of a bond of trust with the students who come to see her, according to her a “small nucleus”, is a priority. Listening is therefore essential to answer young people’s questions about their sexuality, addictions or their educational orientation. “Adolescence is a difficult time with a lot of questions. We are not here to judge them and we tell them that we are not going to go and shout from the rooftops what is happening to them at school, at home or on social networks ”.

For ten years, Catherine Madec has also observed an increase in problems related to online harassment. “Some are ashamed, say nothing, we have to show them that the infirmary is not the place of punishment.” At the Dupuy-de-Lôme high school, the infirmary is located upstairs, which facilitates discretion for the students, whether or not they live in the boarding school.

Monday morning, after the weekend, and Friday afternoon, in anticipation of the weekend, are some of the busiest days, even if it depends on the needs of the high school students.

A change of profession

Working as a school nurse was initially not easy for Catherine Madec. In 1983, however, she devoted her final thesis to this subject. “It was simply titled“ The school nurse ”. I pulled it out of the attic and reread it a short while ago, our missions have really changed a lot since then ”. After her studies, Catherine Madec has always worked in pediatrics and in 1988 even followed childcare training to continue working in this sector. Then, from 1992 to 1996, she was made available from the hospital and followed her husband, a history-geography teacher, to Mayotte. She then worked there as executive secretary in a college, nursery director and kindergarten teacher.

“School nurse is another job, just as fascinating but in a different way”.

On her return to France, she returned to the pediatric emergency room, but health problems forced her to ask herself the question of professional retraining. The first time she obtained the competition necessary to work in a school environment. “I did a skills assessment and discussed with former colleagues who worked in schools,” she recalls. “What is good about the profession of nurse is that it allows you to change professions”. In ten years of experience, she has experienced the differences between hospital and school environments. “In the hospital, it’s technical, we work as a team. By becoming a school nurse, you change the world. It is another profession, differently fascinating, but which is just as much ”. The change was also felt for the three children of the Madec couple, aged 13, 17 and 19 at the time. “When I started in Dupuy-de-Lôme, my younger sister asked me for a year when I was going back to the hospital. Because of the schedules, it was a family reorganization. “

A re-entry still unclear

The 61-year-old Brestoise takes to heart her role as a link between students, families, teachers, administration and the outside network. “When we go to see the results of the exams with the students, I plan on sweets and handkerchiefs. It is always gratifying to see them graduate. Some come back to see us afterwards and thank us for our help ”.

The upcoming school year promises to be busy. “We will have our heads in the handlebars,” she predicts. “I have trouble apprehending, I do not yet know if I should vaccinate the students”. She adds with a smile: “I haven’t opened my emails yet, I’m still on vacation.”