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BURLEY — Cassia County School District Nurse Kyle Hodges is retiring at the end of the school year. Hodges won the 2015 Idaho School Nurse of the Year award and is retiring after working in Cassia schools for 10 years.

“She has been such an advocate in connecting good information with students and parents,” district spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield said. “She is absolutely leaving very big shoes to fill.”

Hodges always looked at students as a whole, and she devised programs that could be implemented in the district to make their lives better.

Some of the projects she implemented included a weekend food backpack program that gives students in need food to take home on the weekend, and she started food pantries at schools in several communities to help families in need.

She put together first aid backpacks for the school playground monitors to wear so they don’t have to leave the playgrounds to administer minor first aid, and she recognized that student allergies were on the rise and wrote grants to put EpiPens in all the schools along with automated external defibrillator devices. The portable devices can detect a cardiac arrhythmia and send a shock to the patient’s heart to restore a normal rhythm.

“She was always identifying particular needs that our kids had and figuring out ways that she could help,” Critchfield said. “She would recognize those needs and then go above and beyond to address them.”

Hodges provided professional development training to staff and teachers during the summer in cardio pulmonary resuscitation and she performed the maturation programs for the fifth and sixth graders, Critchfield said.

She also helped revise district policies regarding medical conditions or child communicable diseases and she worked with the health department to bring influenza shots to the schools for students and staff.

The district’s 18 schools encompass a huge geographic area for one person to cover, Critchfield said.

“I think of her as a health hero,” she said. “There is no doubt that the district is better because of her ideas and hard work.”

The district has hired long-time nurse Laurie Stimpson to replace her. Stimpson lives in Paul and is a 31-year veteran in the medical field.

Stimpson will shadow Hodges for the rest of the school year to allow a seamless transition for the district’s most fragile and vulnerable students.

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Stimpson graduated from Minico High School and Idaho State University with a registered nurse’s degree.

She worked as Minidoka County School District’s nurse for 16 years and recently in family practice.

“I miss working with students. That’s where my heart is,” Stimpson said in a statement issued by the district. “School nurses get to know kids by name and work closely with specific medical issues from diabetes to other special needs.”

Stimpson said the job description of school nurse has certainly evolved over time.

“Many people remember the school’s nurse as the person that hands out band aids for boo-boos,” she said. “In today’s world, school nurses manage kids with feeding tubes and food allergies, teen pregnancy, victims of abuse and in some cases prepare a total care plan.”

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