Diane Rakoff, school nurse for Greenville School, will retire Jan. 2, marking the end of a 25-year run at the elementary school.
“I have enjoyed it,” she told The Inquirer. “With 38 years in the nursing field, I’m looking forward to the future.”
Rakoff joined the Edgemont district as school nurse in 1993 after 12 years as a pediatric oncology nurse at Westchester Medical Center. She and her family had moved to Edgemont five years prior.
“I literally live right down the street from the school,” said Rakoff, whose three children went through the Edgemont school system. “I [took the job] because I wanted to be where my children are and embrace the community.”
In addition, she previously did an internship in school nursing and decided she wanted to someday make it a full-time job.
Nursing was something Rakoff wanted to do since she was a young child. She grew up reading nursing books and volunteered as a hospital Candy Striper.
Also, she said, her father was ill during her formative years, which caused her to have a caring nature.
“I always wanted to be there for others,” she said.
During her 25 years on the job, said Rakoff, she has had to adjust to the changing field of school nursing.
“It’s not just bandaids and icebags,” she said.
First, the amount of children at the school has almost doubled in the past two decades.
In 1993, Rakoff was responsible for 300 students. Today that number is up to 550.
Further, treatment for student illnesses continues to change.
“The reality is we’re seeing more medically complex students,” she said.
Rakoff explained many students are coming in with varying types of allergies, asthma and special needs. She said each student’s need is not a “mainstream” issue and she has to stay up to date with treatment, and to do her best to stay current with the latest medical technology.
The Greenville resident said she works so hard because she has children and knows parents want to be assured their children are well cared for.
“As a mom I don’t want any parent to worry that when you said goodbye to your child they [won’t] come back as safe as when you left them,” she said.
Rakoff recalls having parents come to the school, before enrolling their child, and visit her office to make sure their child would be safe if they got sick.
Rakoff also discussed the hardest thing about being a school nurse — making sure everyone feels appreciated. She said there are many times throughout the day where multiple students come in at the same time. She has to determine which students have the more serious illness — thereby needing more attention — without making any other student feel like they’re being ignored.
After she cares for a child, she said, getting a hug from a student, a smile or a thank you note from a parent is very rewarding.
Rakoff’s contributions to the community extend past the elementary school.
During her first years at the school, the district recognized the importance of allergy awareness. Rakoff created districtwide standards for how each school and nurse’s office should handle student allergies.
In addition to her schoolyear job, every summer for the past 21 years Rakoff has worked as a nurse for the Elmwood Day Camp in Greenburgh.
In 2017, the Connecticut Westchester Hudson Valley chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society invited her to run for its “Woman of the Year” award.
During that time, with the support of the Edgemont community, Rakoff raised $70,000 for the organization through campaigning and fundraising.
Although she didn’t win the award, she was glad to participate.
“One thing in my life is I try to give back,” she said. “I did it from the bottom of my heart and I felt it was something important to do.”
Rakoff said although she is leaving the school she hopes to stay connected to the nursing field. For example, she hopes to help the elderly even as she herself gets into the later stages of life.
She also said she hopes to “maybe travel a little bit.” Due to her time spent at Greenville during the school year and at day camp during the summer, she hasn’t had much opportunity to travel.
Rakoff offered a bit of advice for whomever takes her position in 2019.
“You have to be open to each child because each child is an individual,” she said. “Hopefully they are able to give a caring, warm atmosphere to students and teachers. [They] are a huge, integral part of the school community.”