Loretta Cofield retires after 24 years of service

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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A hidden hero of the district will be saying goodbye after years of service. This year will be the last for Chambers County School District Lead Nurse Loretta Cofield. After 24 years working as a school nurse, Cofield has decided to retire in July. 

According to Cofield, the responsibilities of school nurses often go unnoticed by the public but make a world of difference to their students. School nurses practice independently, make quick decisions during emergencies and care for chronic conditions like diabetes, cystic fibrosis and asthma. 

“We don’t know how much there is to it when we go into school nursing,” Cofield said.

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Several nurses in the district are attending overnight field trips that are attending this semester with their students. Many students couldn’t come to school with their peers if there weren’t school nurses there to attend to their daily needs. 

“We take care of kids who otherwise couldn’t come to school,” Cofield said. “We want them to be able to do all the things the other kids can do.”

But sometimes, all a student needs to cure a stomach ache is a hug, which Cofield loved to give. The nurses get to spend time with her patients when they’re both sick and well. She remembered the fun of pep rallies when she worked at the high school.

“We do like to give them encouragement and make them feel like school is a safe place,” Cofield said.

One of Cofield’s favorite times as a school nurse has been at Christmas time. The faculty and  staff buy presents for foster children or families in need in the area.

“All of us fall in love with the kids,” Cofield said. “And that is the great part of school nursing.”

Cofield graduated from Auburn University for her bachelor’s degree in Nursing in 1985. She worked in many areas, from ICU to surgical intensive care before settling on being a school nurse.

“If you ask all of us in school nursing, we wanted to be school nurses because we usually wanted to be with our kids,” Cofield said. “We wanted to spend more time with our children, and then we got into it and can’t imagine going back to the hospital.” 

Cofield began her career as a school nurse in 1999 in Lee County. She made the move to Chambers County in 2021, becoming the district’s lead nurse. In her time with the district, Cofield has been involved in advancements for the district. She helped navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That has been our biggest, most unusual challenge the last three years, because the rules have changed every year,” Cofield said.

In 2022, the restrictions had decreased. However, Cofield said this year, the district has been strict in asking parents to keep their kids quarantined when sick.

In November, the district enrolled in the state-funded UAB COVID-testing program.

Students and faculty can opt into weekly testing to help detect non-symptomatic cases of COVID-19. Since introducing the program after the Christmas break, there have only been about six students who tested positive for the virus. 

“We’re not seeing much COVID anymore,” Cofield said.

Last year, Chambers County also became designated a Heart Safe school system. Cofield and her fellow nurses put in the hours to qualify for this designation. Now, each school has an AED mobile defibrillator on site in case of emergencies. 

Most recently, over 25 school nurses attended a training hosted by Operation Wipe Out to educate the community on HPV vaccination and the risk of cervical cancer.

As sad as Cofield will be to say goodbye to her fellow nurses and Board of Education, the district will feel her loss.

“We are sad for you to be leaving us but happy for you that you are going to enjoy your retirement with Mr. Buddy,” said Superintendent Casey Chambley at the March School Board meeting. “So congratulations to you. Thank you so much for your service with us.”