I am honored by the number of school nurses from across the country who reach out to me to share their COVID challenges. It is important that we all have safe spaces to share our truths. In nursing, we are conditioned to soldier on, to carry the load, no matter how intolerable. School nurses work in an educational system that oftentimes does not understand the scope of our role or the intricacies of our practice.
COVID has brought the need and importance of school nursing front and center, but still, we are often not in positions of decision making when it comes to implementing known mitigation strategies. This wears away our sense of agency and disempowers even the most seasoned school nurse. Many are or have already left, retiring early or choosing to resign for self-preservation. These decisions are not made lightly or on the fly, they come after being worn down from more than eighteen months of pandemic school nursing with no reprieve and little support.
I am sharing thoughts from a seasoned school nurse who is grappling with this decision. She wanted to remain anonymous for now but agreed to have her message reprinted. Read her words carefully, they reveal the struggle so many of us are confronting:
I have been writing about the impact COVID-19 has taken on school nursing since the beginning of the pandemic. What I have found most helpful in recent months is to share the words of my colleagues, many of whom I have never met in person. School nurses are not OK, in fact, we may have reached our tipping point.
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.