The summer of 2021 is just beginning, and I am already concerned about what the upcoming school year will bring. My hands hurt, both literally and figuratively. The early signs of arthritis is creeping into some of my finger joints. The emotional pain is also beginning to reveal itself too, fueled by the never-ending stressors of the pandemic. I look down at my hands and see the effects of 36 years of nursing, 20 of them as a school nurse. Most of the years have blurred together, creating one long career except the past 16 months. There is a clear “before and after” demarcation of the era of COVID that will stand alone. But COVID is far from over due to the Delta variant mutating its way through unvaccinated people. The next school year is right around the corner with more unknowns to come.
Hands have always fascinated me. I spent the early part of my career training to become an art therapist. I used my healing hands then to create works of art including painting, ceramics, collage and sculpture. Once I became a nurse, I found that my healing hands were used in new and unexpected ways. But these hands are hurting. I think about the millions of other pairs of hands across the world who have endured this pandemic caring for others and know that I am not alone in my physical and psychic pain.
While the questions about school safety for the upcoming year are still unanswered, I will be on the lookout for guidance from the CDC that is expected to be released over the next few weeks. I will give my hands a much needed rest and take a deeper dive into the psychic pain that is bubbling to the surface since school has ended. My hope is that by sharing my pain, others may recognize their story in mine and feel less alone.
I have hosted school nurse support groups since October of 2020 and have listened to my colleagues from across the country discuss their stressors and challenges during COVID. The aim was to create a safe space to share our experiences and promote self-compassion as we continue to work our way through COVID19 at school and at home. The collective trauma has taken a toll on us and while summer is a welcome physical break from the stressors, the anxiety about the upcoming school year continues and so do my support groups. For more information about the group, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.