St. Dominic’s community program leads to fulfilling life working with elementary students

“I am blessed to do what I do. I get to play every day as much as I work,” said Patricia Rucker, Mannsdale Elementary lower school nurse.

Patricia didn’t always have her mind set on nursing, but she always knew she wanted to help others.

“I’m a type-A person… I didn’t necessarily know at first, when I started, that I wanted to be a nurse, but I knew I wanted my bachelor’s in whatever I did. That was just my goal.”

A native of Philadelphia. she attended Neshoba Central High School and was graduated from Mississippi College in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Two of her aunts, however, led Patricia to pursuing the selfless profession.

“Just listening to them talk about some of their patients, and what they did and how good it made them feel to see somebody go from being sick or feeling bad or having some kind of trauma to having a hand in helping them feel better.”

Patricia’s career has included Baptist Hospital, a travel nurse in New Orleans, assistant director of a nursing home in Yazoo City, director of a nursing home in Canton, surgical nurse at the former Madison County hospital in Canton and in the Women’s, Infants and Children’s Nutritional Program for the state.

Throughout all these positions, Patricia always felt like she was learning.

“You always do some type of education when you’re nursing — you’re constantly teaching your patients about their diagnosis, what they can do to improve, what they need to avoid.” 

Now at Mannsdale, through a community program created and managed by St. Dominic Hospital, Patricia has been able to continue to learn.

“In school nursing, it’s just kind of on a different level, because not only do we treat and educate kids, but you also have teachers, you have adults, you have parents, and then you have the community…”

For the last 10 years, Patricia has been the manager of 15 other St. Dominic’s nurses who work at Madison County elementary and middle schools, as well as Velma Jackson.

“St. Dominic’s started the school nurse program 10 years ago as a community service. We are here at no cost to the school system.”

Before St. Dominic’s created the program, Madison County schools had one nurse.

Patricia accepted the manager position so she would have more time with her two daughters.

Her daily schedule is fairly consistent. Usually, she goes to St. Dominic’s first thing in the morning to complete things in her office, speak with her boss and possibly attend a meeting.               

Once she gets to Mannsdale lower, she’s there for four hours each day.

“Mississippi does not have a state law that says (schools) are required to have a nurse… We have people ask, ‘Well, why are you only there four hours a day?’ That’s all we have in our budget. This is a complete community effort.”

Most nurses are stationed at the elementary and middle schools because this is usually the biggest demand.

“When St. Dominic’s decided to take this on, in our opinion, elementary has the most need. They get sick all the time, but once you get to middle or high school, you kind of know if you have a (diagnosed) child, unless they’re newly diagnosed.”


At Mannsdale Patricia oversees 600 students. “Part of my job here is to be that child advocate, because once I hit that door, or once I hit this campus, I have 600 babies.”

One year she had five diabetic and three epileptic students on top of daily medications.

“I have 10 epi-pens, eight asthma inhalers and six nebulizers.”

Sometimes, Patricia worries about being unable to find what’s wrong with a sick student.

“My biggest fear probably would be missing something. Like, say a child comes in, and I really can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong… I can reach out and talk to the parent, we can call 911 if we need to, but that’s probably my biggest fear.”

But the best part of Patricia’s job is being able to work with children and watching them grow, something she never thought she’d want to do.

“I have seen a whole class go from kindergarten all the way to high school — just watching them progress, watching how they mature, getting to know the parents.”

When not working, she’s tending to her farm animals or spending time with her husband and children.

“We have horses and cows and chickens. Both of (my daughters) are in the band, and my youngest is in the band and in archery.”

Patricia’s youngest daughter, Olivia (16), is a sophomore at Germantown High. Her oldest, Ashton (20), is a student at Holmes Community College.

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