Dee Dee Chewning School Nurse Administrator Award
Melissa Prendergast, RN
Melissa Prendergast has 22 years of school nursing experience and has served as the Director of Nursing Services for the Charleston County School District for the past 14 years. Ms. Prendergast supervises the work of five Nurse Liaisons, one Head Start Nurse Manager and over 100 front-line school nurses. Together they provide health services for approximately 45,000 students.
Ms. Prendergast has created a team atmosphere among the nurses throughout her district. Each of five Nurse Liaisons heads a team and meets regularly to disseminate information as well as discuss issues and propose solutions. Additionally, a Nursing Services Development Committee has been established as a forum for nurses to discuss ways to improve services. A Sunshine/Social Committee plans celebratory events and assures that fellow nurses who experience painful events in their lives receive an acknowledgement from the group. The nurses who work with Ms. Prendergast describe her as their greatest advocate and coach -- noting that she recognizes their hard work, provides support when needed, and deals with difficult situations fairly and objectively.
Ms. Prendergast has high expectations of the nursing staff, but a flexible approach that enables nurses to grow and improve their skills. Working with her district’s Employee Relations Department, Ms. Prendergast has been able to improve hiring practices, implement mentoring programs, support professional development opportunities for nurses, and conduct performance reviews aimed at increasing the quality of nursing services. District wide policies and procedures for nursing services have been developed and are updated periodically to promote consistent health services that are based on best practices. Ms. Prendergast secured ongoing funding for an electronic documentation system which has improved nursing documentation and saved many hours of time.
Ms. Prendergast promotes health and nurse involvement district-wide. Nurses are involved in decision making activities related to risk management, crisis planning, school wellness efforts, and district policy development. She works with community partners such as the Medical University of South Carolina, the Department of Health & Environmental Control, the Charleston Promise Neighborhood and the Charleston Medical Society to bring services such as school-based health clinics and school-based flu vaccination clinics to students to keep them in school where they can learn.
Melissa Prendergast is an effective leader, wise counselor, and creative problem-solver. Excellence is her standard.