School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: In the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting – How Gun Violence Impacts the School Community


Everyday school nurses enter our nation’s schools prepared and ready to serve more than 56 million children. For six and a half hours, each day, 180 days a year, families, school districts and communities entrust their children to school environments where the expectation is that they will be kept safe from harm.  Yet, each day school communities wonder, if their school will be next – next in the line of fire.

Firearms are one of the leading causes of injury and death in children and adolescents.  A group of school nurses joined together to share experiences, reflections and next steps in promoting healing following mass shootings in their school communities. School nurses find themselves on the frontline of gun violence, where community violence meets violence in classrooms, hallways, and on school grounds.

Mass shootings that occur inside school buildings brings violence and trauma that is professionally and personally overwhelming for school nurses. They know first-hand how violence and revenge are partners that wreak havoc on innocence, and when coupled with access to weapons, cause death and destruction in the most innocent spaces. 

School nurses are often first responders in school shootings, but who do we turn to for support and guidance? This need prompted Terrie Bolt, Penelope Michaels and me to submit an abstract to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) to present at our annual national conference. Our session will focus on three components of gun violence that impact school communities. The purpose of this workshop is to give insight into gun violence within schools from the perspective of school nurses, who are the first responders, responsible for the health and safety of students and staff inside their buildings. 

I am pleased to share that NASN has accepted our abstract and we will be presenting our workshop in Las Vegas at the end of June during #NASN20. I appreciate the NASN conference planners acknowledging the need for this important topic to be addressed. Terrie is from El-Paso and her school was used for reunification after the El-Paso shooting this past August. That unforgettable August weekend, two mass shootings happened in less than 24 hours of each other in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. Penelope is a Maryland school nurse who was the first responder in a school shooting in her building. The three of us will share our first-hand experiences and how it has impacted our school nursing practice. 

The bigger message though is that we are sharing and talking about how gun violence and active shooter drills are impacting our school communities. To date, many of us have remained silent, not sure how to manage our own trauma or response to school safety challenges like active shooter drills or school/community gun violence. This workshop will open a door that has been previously closed. We plan on creating a safe space to unpack what has happened in our schools and communities by telling our school nursing stories. We learn from sharing our lived experiences, something that has been eerily silent in the aftermath of school shootings. 

For those who will be joining us at #NASN20, we welcome your questions, concerns and most importantly, your presence in our workshop. For those who will not be at #NASN20, we hope to write about our experience and will share our slides in an upcoming blog post.  

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