Jeanne Kiefner, The Retired But Resourceful School Nurse, is back with a special letter to give us a much needed boost of confidence, support and sage advice. Jeanne was inspired to write an open letter after reading the concerning and often alarming comments from school nurses across the country being shared on social media. Here is Jeanne’s letter! Please feel free to respond to this blog post and I will be sure to share your messages with Jeanne.
August 24, 2021
My Dear School Nurse Colleagues,
I am writing this letter from the perspective of a seasoned school nurse who retired after many decades of practice. I have been closely following your messages on Facebook and Twitter and felt compelled to write an open letter of support. I am not dismissing your feelings or experiences, but hope that this note will brighten your day and remind you how amazing and resilient you have been and will continue to be through this pandemic.
When you communicate with your school nurse colleagues you know you are not alone, so stay connected and keep communicating. Do not isolate yourself in your despair, share it. It may help lighten your load. This pandemic is not without precedent. More than one hundred years ago, the first school nurse, Lina Rogers, began her work investigating “absenteeism and communicable diseases” in the tenements of New York City. Each generation of school nurses has their challenges, including pandemics. COVID-19 and the new Delta variant is ours.
Remember, you are not alone, even if you feel that way. Each school nurse is presented with more than a dilemma, but also one that promotes your clinical knowledge and expertise. While some may feel that their voices are not heard, or respected, know that your colleagues are standing shoulder to shoulder with you, especially the retired school nurses, like me.
As I have known through my many years in school nursing, we are not just the caretakers and innovators, but the health and wellness leaders in our schools. Our practice cannot be in isolation as we support multiple disciplines who look to us for positivity and guidance. We are the center of the wheel with spokes emanating and completing our circle of responsibilities. Right now, we need to remember to give people our calm, not our anxiety. That does not mean we don’t feel the pressure, but we have to share it in safe spaces. Find those trusted colleagues that you can share your concerns with, it will help you manage your stress level to face the next challenge. COVID-19 is calling us to function as leaders of an unending emergency. We are the calm, center of the storm that swirls around us.
I read about a school nurse who commented that her passion for nursing was on life-support. Reviving our passion for nursing may require life support for now, because we are still in the middle of the storm. When this long, unending storm passes, and it will, that is when our passion for nursing will be needed the most. We can nurture ourselves through this storm through staying connected.
Covid 19 is affecting us as a profession, but our teaching and support of others is the oxygen that will get us through. Before Covid 19 we were known as the one person in school with health and wellness knowledge. That has not changed. Regular diagnostic screenings, counseling, teaching, and emergency care are still part of the everyday responsibilities.
You are correct in questioning,”who is there for you.?” You are facing unprecedented challenges from parents and school staff that may leave you wondering if you will return the next day. But you are needed, more than ever. School nurses must resurrect a resilience and compassion to address the entire school community’s challenges. You understand the research regarding masks, testing, vaccines, quarantining vs isolation and the protective mitigation strategies needed. Your position as a school nurse is complicated, when you must consider religious beliefs, social attitudes, and political conflicts. Your partnership in a school is informed by your own thinking, professional interests, and your commitment to teaching the latest data from public health, nursing and medical advisory groups.
As we begin this new school year we must capitalize on our strengths and delivery of our health care teachings. Never before have we been confronted with students in remote or hybrid learning; teaching staff who approve or refuse vaccinations; justifying health office supplies; the untenable school nurse to student ratios; reconfiguring our work environments to include an isolation room; exchanging ideas with school staff and administrators. Journeying to archives from our school nursing history and organizations can give us inspiration to build our resiliency muscles.
Let’s continue to be the octopus with tentacles going in every direction; or maybe the cog in the wheel surrounded by spokes, or whatever you dream about. I hope my words will let you know you will always be the rainbow in this cloud.
Warmest regards for a safe school year,
Jeanne Kiefner, The Retired But Resourceful School Nurse
Bio: Jeanne Kiefner, MEd, RN, NJ-CSN, FNASN was on the faculty at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. Jeanne is a school nurse retired from Cherry Hill Board of Education serving the children and community for 28 years. Jeanne served at both Rutgers University and 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.