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The Relentless School Nurse: One Year Into the Pandemic

Author(s): Robin Cogan

I spent part of last weekend re-reading my blog posts from exactly one year ago. How naive I was, thinking that the lockdown would last two weeks, and we would be back to school by the end of March 2020! The directions from school were to pack up for two weeks’ worth of working from home. Here we are, one year later, and we are still remote.

It hit me how unprepared we were. Looking back, I think, was I not paying attention? It feels like it all happened suddenly, with little warning or notice. But then, when I looked at it from a broader lens, there were warnings and news reports beginning in January.  Moving forward, I will keep my blinders off and be more mindful of global public health issues.

I recently heard Dr. Richard Besser talk about how he doesn’t like the term “lessons learned.” He prefers actionable steps because as he explained lessons learned, are just that, and don’t often have substantive corrective actions associated with them. Food for thought for sure. In the spirit of actionable steps, I will remember this COVID year and move forward with intention.

On a positive note, my school district is planning on returning to hybrid learning in mid-April. We have spent the past months creating safety plans and addressing the numerous concerns that parents, caregivers, and school staff have raised. The anxiety about returning to face-to-face learning is high, but as more school staff become fully vaccinated, that stress level should ease.

I know that returning to a more predictable schedule, where every day is not Blursday is important for both children and adults. The longer the pandemic has dragged on, the harder it is to feel going back to work is even possible. But today feels a bit more hopeful with the new CDC guidelines for vaccinated adults:

When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated How to Protect Yourself and Others

We collectively grieve the unnecessary losses we have all suffered, including loved ones, friends, and colleagues. We have lost the normal rhythm and flow of life as the calendar months flew by, but the days dragged on endlessly blurring together. Even the seasons of COVID seemed like one long day, barely being able to distinguish a holiday or birthday from any given Wednesday. But here we are, on the verge of having this COVID laden life more in our rear-view mirror than in front of us on this long highway of a journey no one ever wanted to take. That does feel hopeful, an emotion rarely experienced during this year of a global pandemic.  Here is to turning a corner on the death and despair and reaching a space where hope is possible.

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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