The School Nurse Role Post COVID-19
At the beginning of 2020, many school districts chose to close schools and hold class virtually. This meant that school nurses, whether employed by the district or hired through third-party companies, were left without jobs.
However, as states such as California have begun loosening restrictions, the conversation of when—and how—to open schools has become a hot topic. So, what role does a school nurse play during these uncharted planning stages?
Role of the School Nurse
A school nurse wears many hats, and this isn’t just referring to supplying bandages for scrapes on knees and elbows (although we do happen to do this often). School nurses work in elementary, middle, and high school settings. They are responsible for maintaining students’ medications and ensuring that they take them per doctors’ orders.
They are also responsible for holding hearing and eye screenings to make sure that students can effectively hear and see in the classroom. Sometimes, teachers send students to these nurses when they’re acting out in class, only to find that home situations may be the cause of their difficult behavior.
Some nurses work one-on-one with students who have chronic conditions. Overall, our goal as school nurses is to help students thrive at school — as both a child and a student.
Post COVID-19 Role
School RNs play a critical role in the planning process of reopening schools. From budgets for personal protective equipment (PPE) to training sessions for students and staff about COVID-19, it’s critical for school nurses to remain a part of the conversation.
In order to be included in this discussion, school nurses should have a clear understanding of what COVID-19 is and how it’s contracted, the signs and symptoms for both adults and children, and which claims are nothing but common myths.
In an age where the internet provides us with a wealth of information, it is important for school nurses to stay knowledgeable on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines—on both a state and local scale. Some good resources for school nurses include the following:
School nurses can educate children and parents about COVID-19 and the importance of continued care with a primary care provider. From hand hygiene to policies, it is critical to provide education that utilizes simple terminology (fifth grade language level) and is easily accessible.
Depending on location, education in multiple languages is also recommended. While COVID-19 has prevented many from seeking out healthcare, it is vital for parents and/or guardians to continue well child checks, dental visits, and appointments with specialists.
School nurses are a big part of helping children, parents, and guardians understand the importance of healthcare.
Additionally, as children start going back to school, it can be helpful to assess how students are doing. Therefore, it’s important for school nurses to educate teachers and school administrators about the effects of COVID-19 on a child’s mental health. The transition back to school can be an exciting but stressful time for a child or teenager, and it’s crucial to stay mindful of how students are adjusting.
The reopening of schools after a pandemic is uncharted territory for many, and school nurses are no exception. However, as these plans begin, it's critical for school nurses to be a part of the conversation as they have the right knowledge and experience to help students transition successfully and thrive.
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