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An Open Letter to the Powers That Be… Send Help!

School nurses are facing burnout like never before. In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic where healthcare workers went from mildly respected to “heroes” and now villains enforcing the rules, the school nurses have been overwhelmed and beaten down with heaps of expectations and very little help. 

In addition to our regular jobs of managing students’ diverse health needs and chronic conditions, immunization compliance, day to day injuries and illness, helping students with their mental health, helping teachers with their mental health, clerical work that is expected to be done, and organizing screenings we have been also tasked with Covid testing (schools with 400 – 2000 students), contact tracing, quarantine enforcement, mask enforcement, organizing classroom quarantines and masking, keeping up with the ever changing rules and protocols for managing Covid in schools and being the knowledge ambassador of all things Covid. 

Many of us spent almost a year working from home trying to navigate how to be a school nurse from home while some of us spent that year continuing to work in our school buildings directly facing the deadliest time of Covid with little to no support or even recognition. We then went into a full school year loaded with new and changing Covid protocols, nonstop positive cases that required coordinating the logistics of contact tracing and quarantining hundreds of students and teachers sometimes.

 No one noticed. 

The immense pressure put on us to not only be the person with all the knowledge because we are the Registered Nurses but to singlehandedly coordinate the mitigation efforts in our schools has caused many of us to have greatly increased anxiety (22%), depression (24%), PTSD (30%), and felt bullied and harrassed related to our jobs (48%!!!). Many school nurses have quit or decided to retire. It is a dire situation when school nurses would rather retire early or go to work in the hospital where they feel they will be more respected and treated better (those that have experience working in the hospitals know how bad it has to be to make that choice.)

We need help. We can not do this alone! We need to ensure that there is a nurse in every building, and for some more than one nurse. We need extra nurses and subs to help cover absences (because nurses get sick too and have families that get sick). We need competitive pay to ensure the newer school nurses will stay and to make it worthwhile for us to stay. We need to be evaluated and supervised by school nurse leaders who understand our position. We need a professional ladder of career growth specific to school nurses. We need assistance paying for the education we are required to have specific to school health. We are human, we need understanding and patience and respect. 

For those admins and parents who have supported us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This hasn’t been easy for anyone but we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. We need the continuing support and understanding of the school and district admins and the parents. For those that feel like it is ok to threaten, harass, refuse to comply please understand that we are doing our best to follow the protocols that we are given by the Health Department and the CDC. We aren’t making the rules but it is our job to ensure that they are followed to the best of our abilities.

The results of this survey filled out by school nurses are scary to say the least.

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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