School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: CDC, What Happened to You?


In the world of trauma-responsive care, it is preferred practice to ask “What happened to you?” vs. “What’s wrong with you?” And it is in this spirit, of recognizing a traumatized organization, that I am asking the question, “CDC, what happened to you?”  Twenty-four months of leading the charge for public health during a global pandemic is in itself traumatizing for an organization.  As a collective, those dedicated public health professionals who are mired in this endless moving target of COVID and its variants must feel equally traumatized. 

Organizational trauma impacts systems and the people who work within those systems. For example, COVID has challenged our systems of care and systems of education and the fallout is all around us. Omicron has added to the chaos and confusion as it rips through our schools with lightning speed just as winter break ended. In the midst of the current surge, the CDC announced an about-face in recommendations for isolation and quarantine in a truncated and confusing series of messages whose timing seems incredibly off-kilter.

The updated CDC guidance left many school nurses shaking their heads in disbelief because cutting isolation and quarantine in half during a surging variant that is impacting children seems antithetical to the time we are living through. 

In an effort to attempt to understand what is unfolding in real-time, I dug into material about traumatized organizations and found a very helpful information that can be applied to our beleagured school districts too. 

Trauma overwhelms our protective structure and sends us into survival mode. It leaves us vulnerable and shatters our sense of safety and security and how we look at the world. And if left unaddressed, it can result in long-term harm—not just to individuals, but to organizations as well. – retrieved from Seven “Signs And Symptoms” Of Organizational Trauma by Jacob Wolinsky

The answers are within the CDC itself! CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response collaborated with SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care to create a specialized training for public health emergencies through a trauma-informed perspective.  The 6 Guiding Principles to a Trauma-Informed Approach provides a framework built on rebuilding systems of safety. 

6 Guiding Principles To A Trauma-Informed Approach

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness & transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration & mutuality
  5. Empowerment & choice
  6. Cultural, historical & gender issues

Adopting a trauma-informed approach is not accomplished through any single particular technique or checklist. It requires constant attention, caring awareness, sensitivity, and possibly a cultural change at an organizational level. On-going internal organizational assessment and quality improvement, as well as engagement with community stakeholders, will help to imbed this approach which can be augmented with organizational development and practice improvement. – retrieved from6 Guiding Principles To A Trauma-Informed Approach

Trauma informed care (TIC) recognizes that traumatic experiences terrify, overwhelm, and violate the individual. Trauma informed care is a commitment not to repeat these experiences and, in whatever way possible, to restore a sense of safety, power, and self-worth.

square bulletSix Principles of Trauma Informed Care

1. Safety

Throughout the organization, staff and the people they serve feel physically and psychologically safe.

2. Trustworthiness and transparency

Organizational operations and decisions are conducted with transparency and the goal of building and maintaining trust among staff, clients, and family members of those receiving services.

3. Peer support and mutual self-help

These are integral to the organizational and service delivery approach and are understood as a key vehicle for building trust, establishing safety, and empowerment.

4. Collaboration and mutuality

There is recognition that healing happens in relationships and in the meaningful sharing of power and decision-making. The organization recognizes that everyone has a role to play in a trauma-informed approach. One does not have to be a therapist to be therapeutic.

5. Empowerment voice, and choice

Organization aims to strengthen the staff, client, and family members’s experience of choice and recognizes that every person’s experience is unique and requires an individualized approach. This builds on what clients, staff, and communities have to offer, rather than responding to perceived deficits.

6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues

The organization actively moves past cultural stereotypes and biases , offers culturally responsive services, leverages the healing value of traditional cultural connections, and recognizes and addresses historical trauma. – retrieved from: Trauma Informed Oregon – Trauma Informed Care Principles



2 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: CDC, What Happened to You?”

  1. Interesting perspective and could be part of the problem, but if you have time, I strongly encourage you to read “Premonition” by Michael Lewis – non-fiction, offers another perspective about what’s happening at the CDC and how our pandemic planning failed 🙁

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