Q&A: A day in the life of Hazel Health Initiator Barbara Fontana

Meet Barbara, a school nurse & Hazel Health Initiator in Duval County Public Schools! In this Q&A, learn about her background, her day-to-day as a school nurse, and hear about her experience with Hazel virtual medical services.
5 Minutes
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Updated
Published
February 12, 2024

We had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Duval County Public Schools School Nurse and Hazel Health Initiator Barbara Fontana, LPN. Barbara is an experienced nurse with a huge heart for serving students. 

As a Hazel Initiator, Barbara is responsible for connecting students (with guardian permission) to Hazel Health visits when they need medical care at school. Barbara ensures students are comfortable and set-up properly for their visit with the Hazel provider. She collaborates with the provider to get the student the care they need, so the student can return to class, ready to learn.

As we spoke with Barbara, it was evident how important she is to her school community! Her approach to each situation reflects a unique blend of urgency and grace, highlighting her commitment to the well-being of every student in her community.

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Q: What is your background? Walk me through your journey to becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and School Nurse.

A: I became a mother at a young age and had four children, keeping me occupied with motherhood. Unfortunately, my mother passed away suddenly when I was in my 30s, and my kids were still very young. I witnessed the exceptional medical care she received during her illness, particularly from hospice nurses, and that inspired me!

After overcoming the initial grief, I decided to pursue a career in nursing. My initial goal was to become a hospice nurse, but I ended up in elementary school nursing and loved every aspect! It’s surprising how life led me here, but I am grateful for the journey. 

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Barbara and her mother

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Q: Why did you choose a career in K-12 health?

A: I initially worked in long-term care, specifically with the geriatric population. While it was a valuable learning opportunity, my heart was not fully invested in that field. The constant presence of sadness and death took a toll on me, and I realized it wasn’t the right fit. 

In an interesting turn of events, I got sick on a trip to Alaska. I had to take a leave of absence from work, and after undergoing surgery and recovering, I stumbled upon a newspaper article advertising 15 new school nurse positions in my county. The thought of school nursing had never crossed my mind before, but after discussing it with a nurse friend over lunch one day, I decided to apply. I got the job, and it was a wonderful, unexpected shift in my nursing career. My heart expanded with the kids, and I knew immediately this was where I was meant to be!

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Q: What is your day-to-day like as an LPN in Duval County?

A: My daily routine is pretty hectic! I start the day with parents often waiting to discuss medication during the morning drop-off. Kids who might have gotten sick on the bus or aren't feeling well are arriving. Some children haven’t had breakfast, so I provide them with a snack and ensure they have what they need to start their day. Following that, I focus on caring for a diabetic student, spending a significant portion of my time with him, especially in the mornings and afternoons when he’s in class. It’s a very busy clinic, and I handle each situation as it arises.

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Q: How did you feel when Hazel Health launched at your school?

A: Initially, I was quite skeptical about the new program. I had some interest, but I wasn’t sure how it would function. However, my perspective changed when a representative from Hazel came to set up the program, explain everything thoroughly, and demonstrate how the technology worked. That’s when I felt comfortable and excited about the potential impact.

Hazel’s approach to addressing the entire well-being of the students, rather than just physical ailments, captivated me. It allowed me to understand the underlying issues affecting the students. Despite my concerns during the initial stages and the challenges of implementing a new virtual program amid a pandemic, the rollout was smooth and exceeded my expectations. 

Barbara on using Hazel Health in her clinic

"I initially thought setting up virtual visits for my students would add more to my daily tasks; however, it did the opposite! I can get a student started with their Hazel provider and then seamlessly move on to assist another student. It’s like having an extra set of hands in the clinic, making my work more impactful and efficient."

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Q: How does your role as a Hazel Initiator fit into your day-to-day workflow?

A: The data Hazel provides has been invaluable in our efforts to support these students effectively. It helps to identify patterns, address needs, and bridge gaps that may have existed before. Nothing falls through the cracks with Hazel, and I am confident that no crucial information is overlooked.

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Q: How have families responded to Hazel?

A: Families love Hazel! It brings them immense relief, especially when unexpected situations arise. Hazel allows parents to return to work without worrying about their child’s well-being. 

During COVID-19, Hazel played a crucial role. Instead of sending kids home for minor issues like a sore throat or headache due to pandemic protocols, Hazel providers could assess the situation. If they determined that the symptoms weren’t related to COVID-19, the student could return to class. Hazel was a game changer for families who previously would have to leave work to come pick up their students. The relief the families experienced and Hazel's flexibility has made it a great addition to our school’s health clinic. 

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Q: That’s all the questions we have! Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: Everyone has been so friendly. Everyone at Hazel is wonderful! Students come in crying and leave smiling. That’s been the greatest part, to see them smiling!

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Thank you, Barbara, for taking the time to answer our questions and for everything you do to ensure your students are healthy and happy!

Learn more about how Hazel works in schools

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About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel’s diverse, culturally competent providers specialize in the health challenges of children and teens and partner with parents and school staff to make the best care decisions for students. Hazel is committed to improving health care equity and is available regardless of family income, geography, insurance status, or ability to pay. Hazel’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care, because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at hazel.co.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel's diverse, culturally competent providers work with parents and school staff to transform children's access to health care, because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at hazel.co.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel serves nearly 2 million students across 100 school districts, helping to reduce chronic absenteeism and unfinished learning by addressing gaps in health care access. As an extension of the school health team, Hazel helps schools immediately address student physical and mental health care needs. Hazel’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at Hazel.co/hazel-in-schools.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel helps school districts address chronic absenteeism, unfinished learning, and school enrollment, by addressing gaps in health care access.

Learn more at Hazel.co/hazel-in-schools.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts and families to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Instead of waiting for an appointment with a doctor or therapist, children can see a Hazel provider for a telehealth visit, at no cost to families. With guardian permission, Hazel’s telehealth platform allows children to connect with a health care provider within minutes, or a therapist within days of referral. Hazel’s providers can help with everything from allergies and stomach aches to anxiety and depression. With Hazel, children can get the care they need when they need it.

Learn more at Hazel.co/how-hazel-works.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts and families to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. At no cost, and regardless of insurance status, Hazel’s providers can help with everything from allergies and stomach aches to anxiety and depression. With Hazel, children can get the care they need when they need it.

Learn more at Hazel.co/how-hazel-works.

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