I am feeling so unsettled that words are not flowing for me. Usually, my blog posts almost write themselves, but not this time. The calendar is slipping away, with a daily march towards the return to school. Our third school year impacted by COVID is daunting enough, but this time it feels even more disconcerting because of the virulent incivility that is sweeping across the country. We should not have to fight to keep our children safe.
With district after district bowing to the anti-masking protesters who are putting up barriers to the very few mitigation strategies we have, how in the world are we supposed to create any sense of safety? It is unnerving to imagine our schools, bursting at the seams with students not yet eligible for the vaccine, unmasked and not able to physical distance. There has been less than optimal acceptance of vaccines for students ages 12 and up.
Escalating tensions resulting in violent interactions is what is most disturbing as documented in the many school board meeting videos that are being shared on social media. School nurses have an impossible task – keeping our students and staff safe if all the tools that we know work are banned from use. We could never have imagined that universal masking would be disallowed or that students who have had exposure to COVID would be allowed to return to school with no quarantining.
What is going on in America? Why is public health being ignored, discounted, and disregarded? I cannot wrap my head around any logical reason for the backlash towards those of us who are doing everything possible to promote safety. A mask is not a symbol of weakness or a form of control. It is a tool to stop a highly transmissible virus that is finding hosts in unvaccinated people, including children.
Acknowledging my sense of feeling unsettled is a first step in healing the distress. The overarching feeling of not being safe is at the root of being unsettled for me. Given my family history of generational trauma from gun violence, not feeling safe is in my DNA. As a result, I have come to understand that I am hyper-focused on the presence or absence of safety.
The pandemic has challenged all of us in extreme ways, especially the persistence of unrelenting stress. We are still riding the roller coaster of COVID and its many variants, now complicated by Delta. I was hoping that we would find common ground in our dedication to children’s health and safety. My positivity is waning, adding to the feeling of being unsettled. I am hoping this blog post opens conversations and maybe some solutions…
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.