School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: The Challenges of COVID-19 for Retirees

Many school nurses who are privileged to know Jeanne Kiefner, lovingly refer to her as our “Head School Nurse.” We look forward to spending time together each year at our annual national conference. Under Jeanne’s watchful eye, we are punctual to our workshops, come dressed to impress, and never arrive with wet hair. Jeanne is always on duty, and we are her school nurse ducklings, trailing behind as she scopes out the exhibit hall or arrives early to the next scheduled breakout session. If Jeanne says, I will meet you downstairs at 6:45 am for breakfast, we will be there!

This year, our beloved national conference is in limbo, although most of us are preparing for the news that it will not be face to face. I know that Jeanne’s packed calendar of activities now looks like most of ours, blank. The rhythm of our school year has come to a screeching halt and with that, the traditions that we love, like our conference time. 

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with Jeanne on the phone about how she was holding up, riding out this physical distancing at home by herself. She has been busy connecting with her fellow retirees and continuing to be an amazing resource and voice of comfort. I suggested that Jeanne write her thoughts about the challenges of COVID19 for retirees and she did! The following post was originally published on the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) website and I am reprinting it for my readers:


Jeanne Kiefner, MEd, RN, NJ-CSN, FNASN


Recently, I was asked what retired school nurses are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, I explored the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site and concurred that what I was doing was what I knew. As the past three weeks have gone by, I find myself happily involved and using extensions of my nursing and nurturing knowledge exploring the Partners for Public Health, the CDC, and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center statistics every day. I review the COVID-19 daily updates from these credible sources grounded in science and evidence. In addition, I refer to national nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association and the National Association of School Nurses, my dear colleagues. 

As a retired school nurse, I find myself engaged with many retirees who listen to my stories and ask me questions. The questions I hear relate to  “social distancing” and “how can I shop when no one will drive me?” We can’t sit in each other’s cars.  Each conversation creates a “myth” or a “fact.” Connections with each other are imperative but each person “worries” they are bothering others. Reassurances are so necessary.

The retirees in assisted living are finding dilemmas with the engagement of friends and how to be entertained. The absence of visitors is so lonely at every level of nursing care. I have talked with a few who feel their daily lives are not as impacted as others. I think it is because they are accustomed to accepting what is given. Reassurance and words are necessary.

“How can I get food when the delivery process is only online and so delayed?” I learned yesterday that deliveries in our area are being scheduled 5-9 days out. What are older people supposed to do? I did find someone who volunteered his father as a “shopper.” So many older people are technologically challenged. Ordering foods – strange… on a computer doesn’t necessarily work for them. There is an element of trust that comes into play too. Again, reassurance is necessary.

Another topic discussed is those who are not online bankers, nor do they have direct deposit, which I thought was mandated. Calling on the telephone to ask a question is confusing when you are told to push different buttons and you do not know what they mean. The topic of concern these past few weeks has been if my Social Security check will be directly deposited? How will I know it is really in my account if I have never used online banking before? People in my age group still go to the bank teller in person and many have never used the drive-through teller. One woman was distrustful of the drive-through teller because she said “How will I know where my money is going? I don’t like tubes.”

One of the retirees had to call her dermatologist about a skin eruption.  She did not know how to describe a “bump” versus an “elevation.” She was asked to take a picture of it only to reply, “I don’t have a camera.”  She was on a landline. She finally accepted an appointment five weeks from now.  

During this public health emergency, I find that my certification of a school nurse provides me with a license to guide, support, know, and listen. I am happy to do that;  happy for my role with the New Jersey Retired Educators Association – NJREA Executive Committee; grateful for my NJSSNA colleagues who support me. I can reach to find answers when I am unsure. These are unprecedented times…  All people need hope and reassurance.


Bio: Jeanne Kiefner, MEd, RN, NJ-CSN, FNAS is on the faculty at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. Jeanne is a School Nurse retired from Cherry Hill Board of Education serving children and community for 28 years. Jeanne served at Rutgers University and is now with Rowan University as a faculty member in the Post Baccalaureate School Nurse Certificate Program. She is committed to the advancement of the specialty practice of School Nursing. For 25 years, she was the academic event planner for school nurse regional conferences with American Healthcare Institute and NASN. Jeanne is past president of the New Jersey State School Nurses Association and has served the National Association of School Nurses as a New Jersey Director and held other Committee Chairs. She is a Johnson & Johnson School Nurse Leadership Fellow and in the state of New Jersey is a Certified Advocate for NJ Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Jeanne has served at the University of Pennsylvania Barbara Bates Center for Study of Nursing History and Research and is a contributor to the Museum of Nursing History located at LaSalle University, Pennsylvania. Among recognitions, Jeanne is most proud of her Leadership Awards from the NJSSNA 2012, the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of School Nurses 2018, and the 2019 President’s Award.

This article was originally posted on the NJEA website:

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