School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: An Open Letter to my School Nursing Students

Teaching school nursing during COVID19 has created challenges that forced me to pivot my course and take a 5-day intensive retreat-style experience and make it remote learning. It is a bit like being a virtual school nurse, hard, but doable.

My class opened this week in the midst of the most consequential time that I can remember in my almost 60 years of life.  Tonight we are meeting in person, remotely, but live, and as I sit here preparing our discussion, my heart is heavy with the news of this last week. Setting COVID19 aside, as if the devastation of the loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of normalcy is not enough to deal with, we are sitting in the midst of a long-overdue national, actually international, protest against racism and inequities that have marred this country for 400 years. 

On a positive note, our new cohort is the most diverse group I have had the honor of teaching in my 8 years at Rutgers. This is the future of school nursing, a workforce that resembles our school communities. I am encouraged by the multi-cultural composition of the 2020 cohort. I want them to know that I condemn racism and stand in solidarity with the protesters both on the street, on social media, and perhaps sitting in their homes due to COVID19. 

Nursing as a profession has been historically white, privileged, and many would argue intolerant. We have been known to eat our young, to thrive in a hierarchical structure that creates barriers for people of color, marginalized communities, and those who dare speak out against the status quo.  Ironically, we are still the most trusted profession and noted as being the most ethical year after year. But are we truly ethical if we do not speak out on behalf of those who are impacted by racist policies? 

Nursing, we can do better, because we must.  If we are to flourish, we have to create spaces that are inclusive, welcoming, and denounce racism in all forms. Micro and macro aggressions cannot be tolerated. This is more than a moment, it is a reckoning for the meaning of our profession. How dare we care selectively. 

So, to my new cohort of 2020, welcome, thank you for taking this ride of school nursing certification with me. My promise to you is that I will do my best to check my biases, to do the work that I need to do without burdening anyone else. As Glennon Doyle says, “we can do hard work.”

In the spirit of education, I am including a link to the Anti-Racist Resource Guide by Victoria Alexander, MEd, an anti-racist researcher who curated this collection to be shared.

Anti-Racist Resource Guide By Victoria Alexander, MEd


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