Victoria Alssid, the nurse at Forest Lake Elementary School in Wantagh, wanted to pursue her line of work ever since she was in grade school. Her passion for taking care of others earned her the 2018 Excellence in School Nursing Award from the New York State Association of School Nurses.
Alssid said she was humbled and grateful to receive the award. Two Wantagh School District nurses — Hildi Dzigas, from Wantagh Middle School, and Georgette Walpole, from Mandalay Elementary — nominated her for the award. “They just said, ‘You deserve it,’” Alssid said.
“I’m embarrassed, because we all work as a team,” she said. “I’m not used to the attention.”
Tracey Brady, a “float” nurse in the Wantagh School District who occasionally works alongside Alssid, said she thought her colleague deserved the award. “She does a great job,” Brady said. “She’s on top of everything — all the latest information. So it’s well deserved.”
Alssid was named the winner of the award in the state association’s Zone 1, which covers Nassau County, on National School Nurse Day last May, and was presented with it at a dinner on Nov. 2. There are 14 zones, according to the NYSASN website.
Alssid is the president of the Nassau County School Nurses Association, where she has been a board member for the past five years.
Her mother attended nursing school, and Victoria said that when she was young, she would wear her mom’s nursing cap. Her aunt was a pediatric nurse and her grandparents “idolized” nurses, she recalled, so it was no surprise that she chose the career she did.
She began it at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in 1979, before she graduated from Ohio State University. She also worked with children and adolescents for five years at the Harding Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Worthington, Ohio.
Alssid moved to New York with her husband, Larry, a psychiatrist, in 1985, and she worked at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens for two and a half years. In 1988, she took time off to care for their two boys, Dan and Ben, and became a part-time substitute nurse for the Wantagh School District. From 2002 to 2008, she worked out of Larry’s office, doing biofeedback therapy — a process in which patients learn to control bodily functions that are mostly involuntary, such as blood pressure or heart rate — with some of his patients, before beginning her job at Forest Lake in 2008.
During Alssid’s career, she has defused a number of situations that had the potential for loss of life, talking one patient out of committing suicide and administering epinephrine to another who had gone into anaphylactic shock. She said she prefers not to boast about her role in those positive outcomes.
In an email, she wrote that it can be heart-breaking to encounter students dealing with serious medical conditions. “School nursing is different than being on a hospital unit, because you are making decisions and moving into action alone,” she wrote. “[I] hope they fared well in the rest of their lives. You can call parents, doctors, other nurses in the district to discuss questions [and] recommendations, but in emergency situations you have to act quickly and don’t always have the luxury of a call.”
A school nurse has “nice hours” and weekends and holidays off, Alssid said. “You can miss a lot of friend or family events working different shifts, days and holidays” in hospital work, she wrote, adding, “A school environment is fun. You get to see so much of what the children are learning and how they are nurtured and grow in this environment. The long-term connection with families can be very rewarding.”
Alssid received a Wantagh School District Supportive Education Parent Teacher Association award a year and a half ago, and has also been recognized for her hospital work. “And I do appreciate my colleagues’ thoughtfulness in nominating me for this [award],” she wrote. “Then there are other highlights — smiles, hugs, pictures given to me by children I work with that are real mood lifters.”