Being a school nurse during COVID has often felt like being in “The Wild West.” This illustration, created by artist Sofie Rasmussen, the daughter of Judy Doran, a school nurse from Maine, is the quintessential “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Sofie designed it in commemoration of School Nurses Day 2021 and it perfectly depicts our challenges. This young adult artist has been home from her travels because of the pandemic and has had a front seat to what her mom has faced during this unforgettable school year. One of the biggest hurdles has been confusing messaging from the CDC, which Sofie skillfully included in her artwork.
Let’s be clear, attempting to keep students and staff safe during a global pandemic has been as difficult as staying atop a bucking bronco. School nurses have held on for dear life as the COVID bronco kicked up its heels. We are still here, maybe a bit bruised and battered, but most continue to get back in the saddle. Some school nurses have made important career decisions to retire, retire early, resign or not return next school year. I can’t blame them, in fact, I give them my support and appreciation for recognizing their needs and choosing to move on. They will be missed and their efforts did make a difference.
Maine and Delaware announced that EVERY school nurse is school nurse of the year 2021 in their respective states. Judy Doran shared the following letter that she sent to her school district nurses along with her daughter’s amazing illustration to celebrate her team. This is leadership. Judy’s letter rings true for all of us, so let’s soak in her words and take a break from the challenges that we have had and may continue to experience:
Congratulations! You are about to conclude 9+ months of human trials (following 6+ months of prep). The trials are AKA school in a pandemic. There was no blue print, no game book (you actually wrote the book as you went along), forgotten history (never a wise approach), a wholly dysfunctional political and social vibe. There was fascination and fear. There was a long history of school nurses too quietly rocking children’s health and then we roared. We interpreted science and guidance, questioning and confirming at every step. We developed processes, protocols, how to do this, how to document that, when to do/say whatever, how to say it/scream it, to whomever. When to stand firm. We taught constantly and repeatedly (and repetitively). We demonstrated that school was not magically a virus free place; that our blood, sweat, tears and smarts are what did the trick.
Congratulations School Nurses of the YEAR!!!!
I will look back on this year as the most challenging of my career and one I do not want to repeat. I’ll also look back with enormous pride. And a lot of smiles. I’m pretty sure nobody has told you this lately; there is no group of 6 anywhere on this planet who did a better job in this Pandemic/Pandemonium. I am certain of that. We stepped in, stepped up, gave each other mighty support and respect, latitude and peace when needed, cheer and beer when needed, humor, love, appreciation, consideration. Gratitude and admiration. There was no such thing as a dumb question asked. There were scary times and enormously frustrating times. There was a LOT of laughter. A few tears. A few days of no one in particular or all of us feeling they could not take ONE MORE MINUTE of it. You worked yourselves hard, didn’t take sick days, didn’t take personal days, showed up, dug in, went home, dug in at home, got up and came back to school to dig in again. We looked after each other. I am so proud of that and grateful for it, and honored to be a part of a group that did that so naturally.
Thanks for walking with me.
We don’t know what September will bring, but for now, we can look back at this unimaginable school year with pride for an impossible job not only well done, but executed with professionalism and excellence under extreme circumstances. For those finishing 2020-2021 in the next week or so, enjoy some needed time off. Many of us are still going strong or at least attempting to through the end of June, and others well into the summer months. When you do have downtime, rest, reflect, and gear up for the 2021-2022 school year, it promises to be interesting.
The Relentless School Nurse blog will continue to be published throughout the summer months. We will be celebrating our 4th anniversary next month.