El Paso’s top school nurses are Mesita Elementary’s Michelle Cummings (lf) and Hillside Elementary’s Donna Betancourt (rt) | Photos courtesy EPISD

Hillside, Mesita nurses named Region 19 School Nurses of the Year

Two EPISD nurses who were key in the District’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic were named Region 19 School Nurses of the Year by Texas School Nurse Association.

El Paso’s top school nurses are Mesita Elementary’s Michelle Cummings and Hillside Elementary’s Donna Betancourt.

This is the second year in a row that an EPISD nurse receives the honor of Region 19 Nurse of the Year. Last year, Terrie Bolt from MacArthur Intermediate earned the distinction.

“We are fortunate to have such talented and caring nurses in our district,” said Alana Bejarano, director of health services. “Our nurses go above and beyond every day and we are proud that they are being recognized by Region 19 as School Nurses of the Year.”

Both are honored to be named SNOY for Region 19 – and happy to share the recognition.

“To be nominated and chosen alongside Donna Betancourt is one of the most humbling experiences yet. To stand next to Nurse Betancourt during this milestone year is an honor,” Cummings said. “I work with an amazing team of EPISD nurses and under two of the most fluid and supportive leaders: Alana Bejarano, and my principal, Leila Ferris.”

Betancourt echoed Cummings’ sentiment.

“I’m honored to be recognized as co-nurse of the year with my very proficient and positive co-worker Michelle Cummings,” Bentancourt said. “The nomination for SNOY made me feel humble. There are so many deserving nurses in EPISD and in Region 19, that go above and beyond every day for their students, their students’ families, co-workers and the local community.”

Betancourt has been with EPISD for 15 years and had a short stint on the pediatric floor at Thomason Hospital, now University Medical Center. Cummings has been with the District since 2000 and started her tenure in EPISD as a teacher at Rusk before becoming a school nurse.

Both nurses rose to the challenge of life amid a pandemic to earn the coveted Region 19 SNOY.

“My job changed during the COVID pandemic by becoming more collaborative with other health professionals and health departments such as the City/County Health Department,” Bentancourt said. “There was more training regarding safety and best practices during the COVID pandemic, including adult and pediatric patient care, isolation procedures and COVID signs and symptoms. I adapted by following all directives and by doing ‘what needed to be done.’”

Cummings joined the ranks of school nursing after working at the Hospitals of Providence in the pediatric intensive care unit. She’s found the job much more challenging than expected.

“I’m the first responder to almost 1,000 people here at the school,” she said. “That is a lot of pressure. As school nurses, we need to know how to put together a team to help with campus emergencies.”

Story by Reneé de Santos – El Paso ISD