School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Coronavirus Deepens the Struggle of Fragile Families


Last night I could not sleep. I was restless with worry about my families. I found a post about a food bank that is happening today and I felt a sense of urgency to share the information at 11:30 pm. I sent text messages and emails and even at that late hour, I received a flood of responses of gratitude. My families are fragile, some live on the brink every single day, let alone now.  

The essay below is written by Candida Rodriguez, a Family Development Worker in Camden, New Jersey, where I am a school nurse.  Candida was moved to write this raw perspectives piece because of how Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on our school community. She writes…

It makes our families which are already fragile at the point of breaking and then somebody comes and criticizes their efforts in in that struggle to maintain their homes and keep their families together. 

A Letter to My Critics 

Dear Friend:

            I can call you friend, can’t I? Just wanted to make sure. Somehow it seems that the picture of my child tracing letters offends you. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t know my family very well. How about we sit and converse for a while! This thing, this corona seems to have erased your memory of me. Remember me? No? Okay. I am the parent that works a “menial” job and barely makes enough to be above water on a regular. I take on extra hours so I can buy food, because “Food Stamps” aren’t an option; read the news? Cut off! But I work, because that’s what I do for me and mine, wouldn’t want it any other way. That means that while I work, I rely on extended family whoever they be, to care for mine. They’re taxed, so we do the best we can as a family. We continue to learn as best as we can, and however we can. Our first priority is to have a roof over our heads, food on the table and stay together. We call this surviving, how you living?

            Hi, I heard you were “upset” because my kid was coloring in shapes. It must be a real privilege to be able to sit down with your kid and teach them things, huh? I was proud of my child; she followed directions, showed me what each color was and even told me the shapes. I trust she knows what she’s telling me, I don’t read or write.  I am just glad to help in any way I can.

            Hey, you saw my baby around the house building and cleaning and it upset you. But, I can’t think of why. He was happy and proud to help. We connected! I don’t get to connect often with him. I’m working all the time. 

            Hey, ya’ll. I can’t believe my baby is doing so much independently! Isn’t she the cutest! Someone had the nerve to criticize! Well, how about you walk in my shoes for a day. Let me see: Single parent, still working, crazy killer virus, still working, taking public transportation, crazy killer virus, elderly parent takes care of kids, come home cook, clean, help with work, bath, bed and pray to GOD I didn’t bring home the crazy killer virus!

            Hello, my baby was tracing her name. That’s great because my name is all I am able to write. At least she’s getting ahead of me. We don’t have much. We live in a small bedroom that we share in a house with multiple families. But we are well. I still have to go to work every day. So, like everyone else we all pull together. My baby is teaching me English too!

            Hola, I haven’t shared with you any pictures. I am overwhelmed. I am in crisis and I may even lose my mind by the time this is over. I care for all of my children’s children, because they have to work. You ask me to what? I’ll give you a piece of my mind. Did you ask how I was doing? Did you care? Did you think of what would happen when you shut down? What? You thought a weekend and a day was enough?  Bye, girl.


“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface, but connected in the deep” – William James. 


Bio: Candida Rodriguez was born in Brooklyn, N.Y, and was raised both in Cayey, Puerto Rico and Camden, New Jersey.  She takes pride in her Afro-Boricua roots, although it has taken her a lifetime of self-discovery to return to them.

She has wondered from Brooklyn to Philadelphia and back to Camden; and it there that her heart remains.  Her passion is in writing fantasy and science fiction, but has found a home in the lyricism of poetry and is a happy member of Brigid’s Writers House in Camden.



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