School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: The Day the School Nurse Went to Capitol Hill

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood held a press conference on 9/26/2019
Rep Lauren Underwood & me!


I am sharing my remarks from the press conference held by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood to bring attention to the impact of gun violence in schools. We are asking for the Senate to bring the Background Check Bill to the floor for a vote. Democracy is built on the voice of “The People” and yesterday, I had the ultimate privilege of being one of the voices. I spoke on behalf of school nurses across our country who are managing the aftermath of school shootings or the stress of active shooter drills in addition to our myriad of other duties and responsibilities.

This is what I said:

  • Bulletproof backpacks 
  • This is America in 2019, where mass shootings have become so common that parents are buying bulletproof backpacks and bullet proof three-ring binders that they hope will protect their children from gunfire.
  • Thank you for inviting me to join you today.  My name is Robin Cogan and I am a Camden, NJ, school nurse, a relentless one because bulletproof backpacks cannot be an answer to keeping our kids safe at school.
  • I am also a faculty member at Rutgers University School of Nursing and a board member of the American Foundation for Firearms Injury Reduction In Medicine – AFFIRM Research. 
  • I am from a family of survivors – and victims – of two separate mass shootings in America.
  •  One was my dad  in 1949 in Camden, New Jersey, the same city where I am a school nurse and the other my niece in 2018 in Parkland, FL. These shootings are separated by decades, but the weapons used got more deadly over time.
    • So, for me, gun violence is both personal and professional.
    • It’s what keeps me up at night and drives me to stay focused and relentless – as a mother, as an aunt, as a daughter, as a school nurse and nurse educator.
    • School nurses like me enter our nation’s schools prepared and ready to take care of America’s 56 million children.
    • Every day parents across this country entrust their children to our schools. We are supposed to be places of safety and security.  But also every day schools wonder if they will be next in the line of fire.  
    • Schools are on high alert. We are installing panic buttons and practicing anxiety producing active shooter drills.
    • And let me tell you something unimaginable, but true, 39,000 school desks sit empty in classrooms across this country from students killed by school and community gun violence. 39,000 empty school desks, picture it. 
    • Firearms are now the second leading cause of death for American children and teens and the first leading cause of death for children and teens of color. Car accidents and gun violence are running a race to see which is the deadliest for our kids. Think about that.
    • More than 200,000 kids have been exposed to gun violence in school alone. Scores more through community gun violence.
    •  What these figures don’t tell you, is the collateral damage of this uniquely American crisis. What happens after the shooting stops, the ripple effect.
    •  Gun violence is shaping the lives of our children, they live in fear of the next shooting.
    • Conversations among school nurses include ‘Stop the Bleed’ combat first aid training for staff and students and getting tourniquets in every classroom. 
    • There have been 239 school shootings since 1999 exposing 215,000 students, an extraordinary number, to gun violence in their schools.
    • 95% of  American schools now have regular active shooter drills.
    • The hyper-realistic active shooter drills that we have all heard about – or, like me – have experienced, are scaring our kids.
  • We don’t fill our schools with smoke and debris to practice fire drills.
  • Why are we scaring our kids with active shooter drills that simulate an armed intruder? 
  • We need evidence, not hype, to keep our students safe. 
  • A trauma surgeon I met said, and I quote, “the most courageous thing I do every day is put my children on a school bus.”
  •  Parents have added bulletproof backpacks as part of back-to-school shopping along with pencils, crayons, Kleenex and notebooks.
  • As a school nurse, I never thought I’d see bullet-proof backpacks as must-have back-to-school items, but that’s where we are today.
  • It’s where we are, but doesn’t have to be where we stay. This is not normal!
  • Gun Violence is a  public health epidemic, organizations like AFFIRM are doing the research so we can stop the shooters before they shoot. 
  • We need funding for research. We need action. Thank you, Congresswoman Underwood and your colleagues for your political will and relentless efforts to ensure that Congress makes changes necessary to help keep our schools safe for all of our nation’s children.



2 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: The Day the School Nurse Went to Capitol Hill”

  1. I agree having bullet proof book bags and binders are not going to stop the mass shootings that occur in school. The issues or reason why they occur are what we should be concentrating on. I do believe mental health issues in this country are an issue. It is very difficult to find help for people. Sometimes it takes over a month to get an appointment with a psychiatrist or any other members of the mental health team. Some how someway if that area can become more available to people it may prevent active shootings because people will get the mental health care they so desperately need and deserve.

  2. Relentless to me means to never forget what you went into the nursing career for in the first place. Always standing up for what you know is right , and always looking to learn and expand on your knowledge.

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