School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Realities For Retirees During COVID-19

Jeanne Kiefner, the ‘Retired but Resourceful” school nurse has documented her thoughts during COVID-19 as a written time capsule to remember this unprecedented moment in history. Jeanne has been a life-line to other retirees, always the nurse, checking in on her friends and colleagues to listen and be of service. 

Here is the second installment of her series: Realities For Retirees During COVID-19. 

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

More Realities for Retirees During COVID-19

Two weeks ago we, retirees,  thought we were nearing the end of the tunnel.  Little did I realize that there were more hurdles to jump  and this is “thriving normally.”  If you are feeling challenged today, rethink and redesign what you are doing.  We are all dealing with the same thing.  Don’t keep secrets; share your “feelings” we all have them.  Call someone, anyone-another retiree, compare notes about everything.

Each day the news continues to be grimmer, but we remain hopeful.  Each day when I contact another retiree I grew less empowered saying positive words. But I continue to think that the end is near.  What will recovery look like? How will schools open? When will we have our next trip to a restaurant? Bridge or mahjong is not on the calendar.  All the theaters are closed and the actors are without applause or a paycheck. In fact, I haven’t even consulted my calendar for the past 29 days.  Is that true of all my friends?  I think so. Is this the “new normal?”     

I continue to learn dilemmas affecting other retirees, so worrying about my hair soon returning to its natural color is mundane.  I learned about the retiree whose mailbox is in a central location with other boxes in a cluster. Clorox wipes were her ticket to get her mail.  She felt pretty secure until she saw a young nurse in hospital garb and mask going to the mailboxes too.  It is true we trust the healthcare providers but seeing them in a different environment makes one quizzical.   “Thriving the new normal.”

Another retiree referred to her “therapeutic” garden that no longer brings much happiness. Having one cataract procedure finished and you are on the “eyedrops route” pending the second eye, only to learn the second cataract extraction is an “elective” procedure.  Someone who had the cataract surgeries understands that with one corrected eye and the other uncorrected, the world is really lopsided.  Will we thrive with this new normal?

In the middle of all this controversy, there has been talk of supermarkets and Amazon going on strike because they were not provided with proper protective equipment.  In ordinary times that would not concern too many retirees but in this “new normal” how will our groceries get to us with delivery services affected?  

Even though we complained that the USPS “Forever” stamp increased in price, now that we have none, you cannot mail that birthday or sympathy greeting. We would send our visiting certified nursing assistant to get some stamps, but he/she cannot come to help.  Another friend’s sister is in an assisted living facility, and it is quarantined.  You can mark the days off on your calendar and soon realize that it is over 30 days since you have seen your loved one.  How hard that is to explain when you cannot look into their eyes and hold their hand.  Will we ever learn to touch again?  Oh, this seems like a new normal.

Recently the Passover Seder was difficult for extended families, but much more painful for those unfamiliar with the technology, or ability to access it from a nursing care facility. WiFi is a premium in some facilities.   Religious services have been online and accessed through exploration for those of us “in the know.”

These are scenarios that affect retirees; the funeral of family members who die and the birth of a sweet first grandchild.  Having a funeral service postponed or delayed is so out of the ordinary that one finds closure impossible.  A “hug” is in every family’s tradition from when we learned to hug the Aunt we hardly knew until now. ”Social distancing” has changed all of that. In these scary times, a “hug” would help.  Who really understands the importance of the human touch.  Surely a nurse does.  Hugs work virtually in 2020.

So many of these stories seem “easy to talk through” until I learned about a retiree who sold her NJ condo and planned to move to an assisted living facility in Chicago to be near family members.  After  leaving her New Jersey home because the new resident was arriving, she learned she was displaced because the new facility was on “lockdown.”  She isn’t really homeless, but not happy to unexpectedly have to live with her Chicago family.  Her independence is shattered.

When will “Chanel” be the fragrance of the day and not “Clorox”?   Are you wearing your jewelry?  Don’t forget your blush. When will healthy foods be routine and not just thought about because we have gathered what was on the top shelf of the freezer?  Will we soon know the day of the week when we awaken?  Have we checked on another retiree? A telephone call means so much more than a text.  I know.  Don’t forget to wear your mask when you walk. It doesn’t need to match your outfit.   Will we thrive in this new normal? Let’s first remember to feel hopeful, express our feelings, and then resilience will follow. We will bounce back from COVID-19 and one day soon, it will be in our rear-view mirror.

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.

Here is a link to the initial installment:

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



1 thought on “The Relentless School Nurse: Realities For Retirees During COVID-19”

  1. Once a school nurse always a school nurse. You do not have to be on committees or nominated for something. Just know that you made a difference.

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