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School nurses adapting and innovating in response to COVID-19

By: Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN

Johnson & Johnson has supported school nursing for many years. From 1988 – 2016, they funded the J&J School Health Leadership Program, a prestigious Fellowship that provided leadership training to over 800 school nurses across the country. In 2015, after 14 years of attempting to get a district team to apply, I was admitted to the program. I look at those 18 months of my Fellowship as my personal “leadership moonshot” and credit J&J for investing in me and so many other school nurse leaders. Though sadly, the program ended in 2016, the impact continues to change the trajectory of school nursing. Much of the leadership of the National Association of School Nurses are Fellows, in addition to scores of school nurses working in schools across the country.  My dream job, should I have the opportunity, would be to revive the J&J School Health Leadership Program, to empower the next generation of school nurses.

In the meantime, I will be forever grateful to J&J for investing in school nursing and am enjoying my recent reconnection with J&J Nursing. Here is an article highlighting the work of six school nurses from across the country, I am honored to be included:

The Johnson & Johnson Notes on Nursing team spoke with six school nurses to hear their concerns for their students and colleagues, as well as how they are innovating in real-time to adapt to their schools’ fall plans:

Many school nurses were already overwhelmed, but as districts across the country return to school amid COVID-19, they are facing the profound challenge of ensuring both student and staff safety. Six school nurses share their thoughts on the pandemic and how they’re innovating to adapt.

Checking student temperatures. Distributing masks. Ensuring students and staff are following sanitation and social distancing guidelines. These are just a few of the new pressures on today’s school nurses as many school districts across the country begin their return to in-person instruction. But for many districts that have decided to remain remote until the end of 2020 or beyond, pressures on their school nurses have taken a new form: monitoring student health and wellbeing from a distance—and from behind a screen.

Even before COVID-19, being a school nurse was a challenging role, with many schools having just one nurse for hundreds or thousands of students. School nurses are often the first responders to many youth issues revealed in school, including mental health challenges, food insecurity and even child abuse. And because of their deep experience in delivering care to so many, and often with limited resources, they are uniquely positioned to advise on school safety amid COVID-19

The article continues below:

Unsung Heroes: School Nurses Adapting and Innovating in Response to COVID-19

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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