Are school nurses OK?

Author(s): Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

We are certainly in extraordinary times, as exemplified by this “Public Advisory” issued from the Washington Education Association. The message specifically speaks to the well-being of the state’s school nurses. Are school nurses ok? Is anyone checking on our health and welfare? As we spend endless hours devoted to keeping school communities safe across the nation, who is checking in on us?

This message struck me as equally brilliant, thoughtful, and devastatingly sad. We have reached a tipping point in our country and our school communities. As I peruse the message boards across social media, I understand why this message is so needed, appreciated, and should be a national response. School nurses are struggling, they are sharing those struggles privately, but maybe we need to speak the truth about how underwater we feel trying to manage this unprecedented pandemic with few tools.

There are silver linings in the midst of so much loss, death, illness, and social upheaval. We have to do a better job at remembering them, quantifying what is going well, but time and bandwidth are in as short supply as PPE. We are working our way through the maze of ever-changing messaging regarding response to COVID. We are collaborating through social media networks providing help and support to decipher the myriad of contact tracing scenarios. School nurses are supporting each other in amplified ways that will continue beyond this current national emergency, that I know for sure.

We are not in this alone, although it can certainly feel isolating at times. Remember to connect to your county, state, and national organizations. NASN has done a wonderful job providing much-needed resources. There are support groups for school nurses. I run one in New Jersey that meets twice a week. Join us, we are here to support you. School nurses need a safe space to land, just as we provide that in our school health offices for so many. Here is a virtual safe space to land.

Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 20th 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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