Bringing credible COVID-19 messages to the community because all health care is local

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

COVID-19 messaging

The messaging about COVID-19 was not reaching my school community and I was growing more and more concerned. There were first-hand reports of birthday celebrations, group gatherings, and a seeming lack of understanding of the impact of COVID-19. 

Our families were not grasping the urgency of the message to stay home. There was a flood of information, most not in their first language, and it overwhelmed everyone.  The families were listening to familiar sources that were touting home remedies and minimizing the need for physical distancing. This created a slew of COVID-19 myths that included drinking vinegar to stay well and that coronavirus was nothing more than the flu or a cold.

Candida Rodriguez is a Family Worker at Mi Casita Day Care Center, and one of my most treasured community partners. Candida shared her astute observations with me and together we brainstormed solutions to reach our school community.

For the past 5 years, we have been building relationships with the Pediatricians and health care professionals in our Camden community. We have held Community Cafes since 2016 to build bridges between parents, health care providers and school. Just this past January, we held a Community Cafe and invited Dr. Christine Sheehan, Assistant Director of Pediatrics for CAMcare Health Corporation, a Federally Qualified Health Care Center to speak to our parents.

Candida and I decided that our parents may respond positively to hearing clear messaging about COVID-19 from a trusted and credible source, a Pediatrician from the community. After all, health happens in the community, so we reached out to Dr. Sheehan and asked if she would join us in creating a public service announcement (PSA). Candida provided the expert translation services for our PSA and I asked the questions that Candida and I sourced together. We also included a discussion on “Myth Busters” to clarify misinformation that was flowing through the community.

We taped our PSA on Friday, and this is the result. I am pleased to announce it will also be posted on my school district’s website.

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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