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The School Nurse: More Than Bandaids and Ice packs

“Oh, you’re a school nurse? So what do you even DO? Like just give bandaids and stuff?” I hear this all the time. The other big one right now is “Oh, you’re a school nurse? Must be sooo nice to be able to just sit at home and not work during a pandemic!” I could not be more annoyed with this thought process.

Yes, I am a school nurse. I am a certified school nurse which requires me to be a registered nurse with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and many, many additional graduate courses in things like legal concerns, nursing policy, healthcare procedures, public health, immunizations, various computer programs, special education, healthcare management, pediatrics, teaching, alllllll of the health issues that children can face, and so much more. Presently, add to that the hoards of policies related to Covid management and mitigation within communities which are constantly changing. I am also just a few classes away from completing my master’s degree in Nursing Education.

Currently I am participating in virtual learning as my district is closed to in-person learning due to the pandemic. I assure you that I am NOT “just sitting at home enjoying my time”. Just like the teachers, I am out of bed at the crack of dawn drinking coffee and getting ready to work. I am sitting at my computer for hours a day managing my usual workload as if I was in my office at school. I’m calling people, texting people, emailing, tracking down information on immunizations, heath issues and well checks, following up on issues, and tracking and following Covid cases within my school community. I’m creating educational content for health related issues to share with my students, trying to keep up with the constantly changing protocols for my city/state/country in dealing with this pandemic, and trying to be supportive to my students and coworkers by learning as much as I can to keep them all informed.

Oh, and the meetings – Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, never ending meetings that I have to get dressed for so I don’t look like I’m struggling to survive. Just about the only thing I’m NOT doing right now is handing out ice packs and bandaids!

Now take all of the above and throw in being at home, with a toddler who needs to eat and be entertained and educated, a house and chores that need to be done, people who need to be driven places, holidays to deal with, pets to care for, and life in general and you will see that this is not all fun and games for the “just a school nurse”.

On a normal, non-pandemic/virtual work day I’m doing all of the above plus adding in bandaids and ice packs, the sprained ankles, the ambulance calls, the fights, the daily medications, the nosebleeds, the pooped and peed pants, head lice, child abuse, bed bugs, pinkeye, random rashes, periods, the hearing screens, vision screens, height and weight screens, the mobile dentist, the mobile vision team, the mobile hearing team, fire drills, lockdown drills, trying to get medications and forms from parents, trying to get orders for things from doctors, tracking down immunization records and well check records, making “house calls” to classrooms because so-and-so is having a seizure or a behavioral episode. Don’t forget all the clerical work of computer documentation, scanning forms, entering stats from the forms, entering the screening info, preparing and sending letters for all the failed screenings and then following up on those. I could go on.

It’s chaos on any given day.

So yes, it’s easier working from home for sure, and school nursing is easier and more enjoyable (to me) than the hustle of hospital nursing (have you tried emergency trauma nursing? Because I have and while I loved that too, it’s a fast burnout) but pandemic or not my job is far more than just bandaids and ice packs. I am not a health aid, I am not a CNA, I am not a parent volunteer, I am a well educated healthcare professional who works damn hard at her job. Before you assume that I am “just a school nurse” stop and consider what that even means.

Published by Emme Mauer M.Ed., BSN, RN, CSN

Mom to two preemies, anxiety sufferer, postpartum depression survivor, and school nurse extraordinaire.

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