“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – Congressman John L. Lewis
One way to regain our power in a very disempowering time is to get into some “good trouble” and speak at your next school board meeting. I joined my school nurse colleague Nadina Brown, and spoke at our district’s board meeting. Each speaker was allotted 3 minutes, which equals approximately 390 words spoken at a regular cadence. Together we had 6 minutes of focused attention to plead our case for more school nursing services. I am encouraged to say that our message was heard. Several board members commented on the importance of listening to our nurses and most notably, the Superintendent summarized our recommendations as actionable and important.
You can listen to the Superintendent’s summation of our comments at 01:51:00. If you want to dig in a bit deeper and listen to our presentations, my comments begin at 28:00 and Nadina follows right after.
August 24, 2021 – Camden City School Board Meeting
Thank you, Superintendent McCombs, members of the board, and school leadership for centering student safety during this complicated time.
My name is Robin Cogan, this will be my 21st year serving the students, staff, and families as a Camden City school nurse. COVID-19 and specifically the new Delta variant, is impacting unvaccinated adults and children. This is a great concern, especially because the majority of our students are not yet eligible for the vaccine and only 51% of the city’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.
We know that we need multiple layers of protection in school. These include contact tracing with isolation and quarantine, Covid-19 testing, handwashing, respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfecting, and of course universal masking regardless of vaccination status. The Delta variant makes ensuring these strategies are widely practiced even more urgent because it is as contagious as chickenpox.
School nurses will be leading these efforts in our schools. School nurses have served as a hidden healthcare system for our most vulnerable students and families. It is way past time that we are given the support and resources we need so that we can continue to provide the best care to our students and staff.
If we don’t ask, the answer is always no, so here are some asks:
-We need support if we are to safely manage the complex health needs in our school communities. We need substitute school nurses because we are already stretched thin and when one of us is out, we have been covering each other’s buildings. We have done this for many years, but this is not sustainable, especially with the Delta Variant circulating.
-Please hire school nursing staff based on student health acuity AND numbers. We need our health aides back in our offices. We want to care for our students, but with no assistance with hundreds and hundreds of students how can we be expected to successfully manage COVID screening, contact tracing, mandatory health screenings, mental health assistance, referrals, chronic health management not to mention emergencies.
-One example of innovative thinking comes from our colleagues in the Perth Amboy School District who dedicated a portion of the ARPA funds to staff each school with two certified school nurses. They hired 11 new school nurses over the summer to support the health and safety needs of their district.
Camden City School Nurses are the public health professionals in our district’s public schools. Our workforce is seasoned, dedicated, and asking for help to do the best job possible for our students and school communities.
Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN