Meet Nasim Akhtar, School Nurse at P.S. 70

Sunday’s New York Times had a lovely profile of Nasim Akhtar, the school nurse at P.S. 70 in Long Island City, Queens.

Nurse Akhtar, who speaks four languages — Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English — is the ambassador to parents, reminding them to fill out their emergency contact forms, refill prescriptions or update immunization records. She encounters about as many medical philosophies as countries of origin.

The piece also describes Akhtar’s early years in New York after she moved from Lahore in the early 1990s. It’s a familiar immigrant story:

The initial years in their East Elmhurst home were lonely, and she coped by studying for nursing exams, sometimes taking breaks only to sleep, hoping that a medical credential would help her earn citizenship (she has a green card). She took her books everywhere — the fifth edition of the Lippincott Manual of Nursing Practice became her bible — and memorized concepts like arterial blood gases by writing the words out in a neat blue cursive.

School nurses have been in the spotlight recently due to the emergence of the H1N1 virus. Queens was hit particularly hard by the virus last spring.

There’s also a slideshow of P.S. 70 here.

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