Patrice Gage was born and raised in Royal Oak, the youngest of seven children. Her mother was an elementary and high school teacher and principal of a grade school and through her experiences, Gage grew to love education and was in awe of her dedication to her profession. However, her heart was always in the nursing care of others. In her senior year of high school, she enrolled in the nurse assistant co-op program and after graduation, worked in an emergency room while pursuing her nursing degree from Madonna University.
Her ER experiences opened her heart to caring for children and so she moved into Pediatric Intensive Care which set her on a path of pursuing her Pediatric Nurse Practitioner degree through Wayne State University. As a PNP, she worked in the clinic and community setting taking care of well and sick children.
During this time, she married and had four children. “Two of my children were diagnosed with severe life-threatening food allergies and one with Crohn’s disease,” she says. “As a mother, I learned quickly how to advocate for my children so that they could attend school safely and healthily. These challenging yet wonderful experiences opened my eyes to the opportunity to now give back in the school setting.”
Gage says that four years ago, her dream came true when she was hired as a school nurse for the Ann Arbor Public Schools community.
AAPS Lead School Nurse Keely Hoffman says Gage is a wonderful addition to an excellent group of school nurses.
“We have a wonderful nurse team in AAPS and all of our nurses are exceptional,” says Hoffman. “Patrice is one of these amazing nurses! She is a pediatric nurse practitioner and is a great resource for our team. She is always eager to jump in and support so many efforts, including protocol development, leading subgroups, training for becoming a CPR instructor, and being a board member of our Michigan Association of School Nurses (MASN). Patrice always brings humor to the group and is often there to add encouragement and support to our nurses.”
How would you describe your years as an AAPS school nurse?
These past four years have been the most rewarding and incredibly fruitful years in my profession. I have joined the Michigan Association of School Nurses as the Special Education Chair and recently passed the certification exam and am a nationally certified school nurse.
Do you ever have a typical day as a school nurse for four elementary schools?
School nurses wear many hats and with each school day, new things arise that draw on our professional expertise, knowledge, and experience on how best to serve our students. We have been active in certifying our schools to be MI Heart Safe and training MERT teams to respond to medical emergencies. We work closely with our families that have children with complex medical needs to make sure the students are well cared for in the school setting and ready to learn. We train, supervise and support our school staff to care for our students. We manage daily busy clinics and work closely with our students, families, staff, and medical community.
AAPS school nurses face challenges of various magnitude from managing multiple schools, caring for children with complex health needs, and advocating for health promotion and disease prevention. AAPS school nurses are highly educated and skilled professionals. I am honored to work alongside this nurse team who work tirelessly, going above and beyond to make our school community a healthy, safe, and happy place for our children to grow and learn.
Is it hard working at four buildings?
It is challenging managing the health care needs of four schools. Some days I am running a busy clinic while taking calls from other buildings and answering emails. However, the upside is how happy the school staff and students are to see the nurse arrive at their building. You feel so appreciated!
What’s an advantage of working at a school rather than a hospital?
You are boots on the ground helping keep the child in the school setting learning and growing and helping prevent absences or other health challenges.
What’s a disadvantage?
Not having access to all the resources that hospitals have for education.
How do you spend your summers?
I am active in my faith community and will have more time to volunteer. I also enjoy hiking around the Michigan trails with my family.