Well, NCSNs, here we are back at another March- the last time we started a March, life and working as a school nurse was perhaps a bit simpler and we were three months into 2020: Year of the Nurse and Midwife- finally, our special year! Working as a school nurse across populations and roles throughout the pandemic has presented many new challenges, such as how to manage workflow, deliver care and other school services during building closures, creating responses to questions on issues like masks and opening buildings that were informed by evidence, and detecting and preventing child abuse. While the nation’s politicians, business owners, and working families pushed for school reopening, school nurses in some states had to justify to those same groups they were indeed frontline workers in need of early-phase vaccination. School nurses also saw an evolution of job responsibilities, as districts and public health departments relied on the expertise of school nurses to perform contact tracing, meeting the needs of our students required innovation. In addition to this evolution of duties, we have also had a return to our early 1900s routes in disease surveillance and infection control.
A great deal of opportunity for school nursing has emerged in the midst of these challenges. It feels like the work of school nurses and the key role school nurses play in the health of the entire community is being recognized and valued more than ever. Our local news channels as well as national morning shows and cable news outlets have highlighted the work and voices of school nurses. Such coverage has resulted in sentiments such as “I had no idea school nurses did that”, “I didn’t realize that happened in schools”, and “We couldn’t do this without our school nursing team” being shared by our friends, family, school colleagues, and fellow nurses alike. Heading into the thirteenth month of the pandemic and continued changes, our next challenge may lie in keeping these experiences and memories fresh in the minds of the general public, school families, administrators, and policymakers going forward. Although (or, perhaps because!) we are all busier than ever, it is imperative for school nurses to take data and demonstrate to stakeholders why we are essential to school communities. 2020: Year of the Nurse and Midwife has formally been extended to 2021. I hope we can all take an opportunity to speak out publicly about who school nurses are, what we do, and why schools need us. Consider bringing data to your school board, speaking to your PTA/PTO, calling your local radio station or newspaper and asking if they might be interested in an interview. If you are nervous to do these things yourself, work with a group of school nurse colleagues! Let’s do our best to rise from the crisis and take advantage of the momentum.
-Brenna Morse, NBCSN President