Are the voices of our public school nurses being heard?

On an average day, a public school nurse is faced with thousands of decisions and demands — from bandaging skinned knees to administering life-saving interventions, and everything in between. When not providing care and medicine for any number of illnesses, many of them chronic, on varying schedules throughout the day, this public health representative dispenses practical TLC, family advice, a safe place for those in crisis, clean clothes, food resources and much more. They strive to be everything to all comers.

With a highly contagious virus that we are still learning about, especially when it comes to the long-term effects on children’s bodies, does every health office have enough certified staff to be effective for the population? Does the physical space have suitable air circulation, plumbing, enough room for physical distancing and privacy? Will the custodial staff enact a constant and predictable sanitizing routine?

As administrators decide when to re-open schools, plans that look good on paper will be proven on the frontlines — in buildings with a congregate of children, staff and visitors who will depend on their school nurse to implement effective interventions should COVID-19 symptoms occur.

These dedicated school nurses deserve a platform to share their worries and concerns on what it will take to safeguard the most precious members of our future from an injurious and potentially deadly virus. We can’t just re-open buildings willy-nilly.

Now is the time to redefine, rethink and re-imagine public schools. Many children and families depend on the vital roles in-person education plays in their lives. However, in order to guarantee the safety of all, we must accept the new reality. Beyond the CDC Guidelines, let’s make sure these health care professionals voice their immediate concerns. Let’s listen carefully, then implement what needs to be done, now.

“School nurses influence wellness and disease prevention practices in our communities now more than ever during these changing times,” said National Association of School Nurses Executive Director Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN. “When a school nurse is present to meet student healthcare needs, parents and school administrators know that children and youth can focus on learning.”


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