Celebrating School Nurses in North Central Washington Schools
Author: Cathy Meuret, NCESD Director of School Nurse Corps
National School Nurse Day (Wednesday, May 12) recognizes and celebrates school nurses for their contributions to the health and well-being of the nation’s students.
And if there has ever been a year that highlights the value and contributions of the school nurse, it’s the 2020 – 2021 school year. Throughout the past year, North Central Washington school staff worked diligently to continue educating students and to get students back into school buildings. School nurses played an integral role in these efforts, taking on significant responsibilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in support of students and staff.
How did school nurses contribute this year?
Over the past year, school nurses, who are often the only licensed healthcare professional in a school, collaborated with public health experts and clinical care providers, supporting COVID-related health services. School nurses have led contact tracing efforts, COVID testing, symptom screening and sick room support, isolation and quarantine tracking, materials and equipment coordination, and the ongoing education of staff, students and parents. They promoted adherence to federal, state and regional guidelines, some of which were not always popular or well-received.
Prior to the pandemic, schools were already understaffed with regard to nurses. With only part time hours in each school building, school nurses worked well beyond their contracted hours to address COVID-19 responsibilities while continuing to meet the routine requirements of their positions.
The Pandemic’s Impact on School Nurses
Each year, North Central Educational Services District School Nurse Corps collects data about school district health services in its four-county service area.
Along with specific data points, such as the number of health room visits and medications administered, school nurses are invited to share stories about the impact of their work.
Excerpts from this year’s assessments highlight successes and hard work:
“Based on our screening processes and ability to test on the spot, I have been able to catch two positive cases of COVID-19 before the individuals had a chance to expose others in the school. I spend a lot of time talking with parents on the phone and helping them understand our COVID protocols and scheduling tests for their students. Even as I am writing this, we have not had a case of COVID that can be traced back to school spread.”
”Our district has implemented practices that, if continued long after this pandemic, will keep our students and staff healthier. It is never a bad idea to wash hands more, stay home or go home when ill, have a back-up plan to “traditional” education, and respect the space of our neighbors. Out of this experience, we have learned how strong we can be when we need to be.”
“An incredible amount of time has been taken up this year by COVID interventions and finding best practice to ensure the health and safety of the entire school population. A broad success has been the ability for our school to remain open to in-person cohorted learning for all elementary students since the fall with zero transmission of COVID-19 between staff and/or students. I am very proud of being a part of this school community and playing a small role, as I am only here one day a week, in keeping kids and staff safe.”
“Many days I am tired and burned out due to COVID, but I can also take a step back and see what I am doing makes a difference. Helping 400+ students be able to socialize and attend in-person school is a major success. I am slowly making my way through my traditional yearly tasks and sometimes I feel like I am not succeeding in my role. However, when I look around our country, state and even other schools in my county, I can see where I am actually doing a great job and I feel confident saying the district couldn’t do it without their school nurse.”
“I have answered almost all health questions related to COVID, personal protective equipment, isolation and quarantine, symptoms and testing. Not all of this work took place during school hours.”
Each year, school nurses positively impact our students, schools and communities. Whether you have a student in the school system, work in a school, or have a school in your community, you have been impacted by a school nurse. This year even more so. May 12th is a day for all of us to say “thank you” to North Central Washington’s extraordinary school nurses.
Thank your school’s nurse on May 12 by sharing this graphic on your social media feed and tagging it with #WeLoveOurNurses #ncwschools
(Right click on the image below to save to your computer and then share on your favorite social media platforms)
NCESD Recognizes Regional School Nurses with Friends of Children Award
The North Central Educational Service District (NCESD) recognized all school nurses and health room assistants serving North Central Washington schools on April 26 with the 2021 Friend of Children Award. Created in 1992, this award recognizes outstanding individuals in the community whose contributions make our local school and communities better.
About the Author
Cathy Meuret serves as the director of the WA State School Nurse Corps for North Central Educational Service District 171 in Wenatchee, Washington. Cathy holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and Masters of Arts in Education. She also holds WA State ESA certification as a school nurse. Cathy has 40 years of experience in acute care and public health nursing in direct clinical services, health education and administration.