I woke up on Thanksgiving morning and for the first time in many months, I felt calm. It was a startling contrast to the extreme anxiety that I feel on most mornings when I am getting ready for school. The sense of calm was so noticeable that it forced me to stop and reflect on the extreme contrast that was demanding attention. Like many school nurses across the country, I have been on high alert for twenty months, but never more than since school began in September. Why the difference this year? The answer is simple, we are attempting to force a typical school environment into the most atypical time any of us have ever experienced. Cognitive dissonance has taken a toll on all of us.
My sense of calm was short-lived as the news of the emerging Omicron variant unfolds in real-time. I can’t help but wonder what this will mean for school in an already high-stakes environment. There are so many unknowns with the new variant. We will have to wait and see but remain on high alert. This is the issue, how long can we be hypervigilant without it affecting our health and well-being. My brief interlude feeling calm gave me a momentary pause from the COVID anxiety that has permeated our daily lives. I wonder, can I continue to feel responsible for the health and wellness of students and staff in an impossible environment? Impossible because we cannot guarantee safety, we can only mitigate risk.
I have come to realize that mitigating risk for other people’s children is what is weighing most heavily and causing this sense of foreboding that I carry with me throughout the day. Even the weekends have not given me respite from worrying about school safety. Thanksgiving was a much-needed reprieve from the stress, but it came roaring back with a vengeance. I will be paying close attention to my physiological and psychological responses and have made an intentional decision to share my story in an effort to break down barriers to the stigma of healthcare providers seeking help and support.