School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Momentary Time and Space to Feel Calm…

Illustrator @ComicNurse


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. 


6 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: Momentary Time and Space to Feel Calm…”

  1. Robin, Much of what you write resonates with me, this in particular as I took a Thanksgiving vacation to visit my children and took a complete break. First vacation since June 2019. It felt great not to carry the burden of worry around for a few days. I too am concerned what toll our hypervigilance and the emotional burden school nurses carry will mean for us as individuals and as a profession.

    1. No rest for me unfortunately. 2 outbreaks at my special needs school and had to work over break for contact tracing. It was just expected I do it. No one asked or offered help.

      1. Sending virtual support to you KM, thank you for responding.

  2. I read this blog daily and it saves me from just leaving at times. The pressure of making such life impacting decisions – shutting down a sports team, putting kids w IEP’s or Special Needs on quarantines due to exposures, etc. We are doing what we have to do, but it is not supposed to be this hard. Our jobs we are certified to do morphed into something nearly unrecognizable, but no-one asked, said please or thank you. . I desperately need clerical help but it falls on deaf ears. I stay for the kids and the staff – I am in a Title 1 high school in Camden County. I have had to set hard and fast limits as to what I will tolerate and that has helped immensely. I speak up despite being told to be quiet, and I will advocate for myself as I advocate for my students. I wrote the Board after going up the food chain, step by step. I am not yet tenured but am acting as the Canary in the Coalmine for my district in expressing anxiety, anger, need and safety measures. My thought – if I do not get a contract next year so be it. These topics must be addressed by someone.
    Jenn Griffith RN, BSN, CSN

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