When Caitlin Griffin started searching for jobs in New York City, she knew she wanted to take her career in a new direction.
Growing up in Georgia, Caitlin always knew that she wanted her work to be an important part of people’s lives.
“I didn’t think I was going to change the life of every person I’d meet,” she said, “but I wanted to be impactful in their day-to-day lives. I knew I wanted to work with kids, and I wasn’t squeamish, so I thought being a nurse was the best bet for me.”
She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2014 and then enrolled in the Medical College of Georgia for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She continued at the college to get her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) while working at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a large hospital.
Even then, the social impact of her profession was at the front of her mind. Her research project for her DNP involved creating a toolkit for pediatricians to care for patients who were recent immigrants.
When her husband got accepted to an MBA program at Cornell, Caitlin started working at a pediatric office. And when he got a job in New York City after graduating, she decided to take on that new career path.
“I knew I wanted to work somewhere different than a private practice,” she said. “I wanted to do something that was mission-driven and had a social impact. I wanted a job where I felt like I was making a difference each time I was there.”
She started reaching New York City nonprofits and came across Children’s Aid. “I looked at the website,” she said, “and I thought it would be dream if they were hiring.”
She started working as a nurse practitioner at P.S. 8 in Washington Heights in late 2021.
With the support of an administrative assistant and a medical assistant, she leads a clinic that cares for the 360 students enrolled at the school.
In a typical day, Caitlin will administer medicines to children with daily prescriptions; administer physicals and vaccines for recently enrolled students; and communicate with parents after classes are dismissed in the afternoon. But of course, there isn’t a typical day for a nurse at a school.
As the main medical authority at the school, Caitlin directs everything from basic hygiene care to medical emergency responses. She also helps her students get referrals for further care when needed.
“When we see a student, we go over all the normal health care topics,” she said. “Then we dig a little deeper. We often discover that they don’t have what they need to be as healthy as possible, and we connect them to the resources they need. If you need help enrolling in insurance or getting a food box or enrolling in SNAP, we can provide an access point for all of that. That’s what’s great about working at Children’s Aid.”
Of course, she also gets her fair share of students who are looking for something a little simpler – a moment away from the classroom or a friendly ear to talk to.
“We have a snack drawer in here,” she said. “One thing I’ve learned is that you can solve a lot of problems if you have some snacks in your clinic.”
After more than two years working at the school, Caitlin is confident that she made the right decision to redirect her career.
“When I’m here, I don’t just diagnose a child with strep throat and send them on their way with antibiotics,” she said. “We’re in the schools and we’re in the communities. There’s trust between us and our patients, between us and our families.”