10 things parents can do now to help prepare children for returning to school

Author(s): Toni Tomkins, BSN, RN and Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

School nurses have been industrious during COVID-19, using innovative skills to do one of the things we do best, providing information for our families. Everyone’s health literacy has been tested through the pandemic. The messaging from our most trusted institutions like the CDC has been confusing and ever-changing. As states have released vague return to school guidelines, it is clear that the details for keeping our students and staff safe will depend on each school district to create their own policies and procedures.

One of our newest school nurses, Toni Tomkins, is using her unique skillset, making lists, charts, and flyers to create an infographic for her parents to help navigate the tricky waters of COVID-19. Her informative flyer caught my attention and Toni graciously agreed to share her creation with my readers!

Below is Toni’s story and her flyer! There is a word document version that can be customizable if you are interested in creating one for your school families.

My name is Toni Tomkins, BSN, RN. I have been a substitute school nurse at 18 different schools for the past two years within Chesapeake Public Schools. I have two children (19 years old and 6 years old) and a husband in the Navy. This year, I decided to pursue a full-time job at Cedar Road Elementary (PreK – 5).

I’ve always been a proactive individual; making charts, flyers, & schedules are fun and needed since my 6-year-old is on the Autism Spectrum. With 2020-2021 being my first year as a full-time school nurse, I have been listening to tons of Webinars, podcasts, reading medical journals, staying abreast with CDC, our local health department, and state guidelines to educate myself while preparing for this monumental change.

So, there I was, sitting at my home desk with all this information on the tip of my tongue and I didn’t have a platform big enough to gather all the parents around. So, I decided to create a Top 10 flyer for parents in hopes it would help them be more proactive & perhaps ease some transition anxiety for them & their children. I created it because I know as a parent, especially a mom of an ASD child, I would want the same thing provided for me.

Please click here for a downloadable PDF of the flyer above, and click here to download a customizable version to fit your community!

Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 19th year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. She serves on several national boards including The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a gun violence prevention research non-profit organization and the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN). Robin is the Legislative Chair for the New Jersey State School Nurses Association (NJSSNA). She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor.

She has been recognized in her home state of New Jersey and nationally for her community-based initiative called “The Community Café: A Conversation That Matters.” Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include 2019 National Association of School Nurses (NASN) President’s Award; 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year; 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year; and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty.

Robin writes a weekly blog called The Relentless School Nurse. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RobinCogan.

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