Milton Hershey School Nurse Finds Family Throughout Career Journey
By John Berarducci, MHS Senior Division Nurse
I didn’t always know I wanted to become a nurse. My major in college was pre-dental. After graduating, I ended up working for an environmental company for a year. Then I took a job as an operations manager in food service for several years.
Three days after my son was born, I got a call that the company was closing down one of our major contracts so I got laid off. My wife was also laid off by her employer. We had difficult decisions to make together as we started our family. She landed a new job and I became a stay-at-home-dad.
My father was battling cancer around that time, so getting a glimpse inside the healthcare system and having a background in dental inspired me to pursue nursing.
I’ve been a nurse for about seven years. Before becoming a nurse at Milton Hershey School, I worked in brain injury at the rehab hospital in Hershey.
My job in the Senior Division Medical Clinic is to coordinate all clinic activities. This includes coordinating with the doctors and nurses to get student visits scheduled. I make sure we perform annual screens, physician well visits, BMI assessments, and sports physicals, in addition to meeting the daily needs of our students. Every day holds something a little bit different. Personally, that’s something I really like. This job is definitely not monotonous.
Another aspect I enjoy in my role as a high school nurse is the age of the students I get to help. Having children of my own in high school gives me the ability to make a connection with and relate to our Senior Division students. I think this is an awesome opportunity to be able to help MHS students with their medical needs and serve as their mentor or role model.
We’ve been able to help some of our students with their careers, too. We have students that showed interest in the healthcare field, and some specifically in nursing. We’ve been able to talk to them and serve as educators.
At the end of the day, it’s a good feeling to be able to help our students. Nursing, in general, is rewarding. You’re helping people. Here at MHS, you’re helping students that may not have had the ability to get this kind of medical care in their home environment. MHS can cover all the costs for them and we give them the appropriate care they need.
Not only do we work with the students, but we also help their parents/sponsors. I get questions from parents/sponsors, and I can walk them through their concerns over the phone. The interaction is really gratifying. Some parents/sponsors reach out to us after their son or daughter graduates, so you see these relationships last for years. I feel like I’ve made a direct impact on them.
Thinking back to our founders Milton and Catherine Hershey and what they wanted for the school, health care plays a big role. I think we continue to fulfill their vision today through the whole child approach. It still blows my mind to think about all the things we do to meet the everyday needs of our students. We have roughly 1,000 students in Senior Division, so it’s an amazing feat to be able to coordinate that much care across multiple disciplines not only on campus but also through our partnership with Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
We have a lot of different disciplines. I work not only with nurses, CNAs, clinic staff assistants, nutritionists, and doctors in my clinic, but also with administrative staff, psychology staff, social workers, and the whole interdisciplinary team to make sure the needs of our students are met holistically. There’s a lot of collaboration and it feels like a family.
That kind of family support has been really important throughout the current pandemic. COVID-19 has definitely had its challenges, but we have all maintained a positive spirit to work through things together. I think we’re doing a great job in the clinic.