Barbara Glickstein is the consummate bridge-builder. She noticed a generous and compelling Tweet by PICU nurse Hui-wen Sato who shared her hope to find a way to support the school nurse in her daughters’ elementary school. Here is the Twitter thread that told the story of how Hui-wen, a nurse/mom tried her best to volunteer in her children’s school health office to offer support.
I’ve been a PICU nurse for just over 11 years and I became a mom three years into my nursing career. Now a mom of two elementary-aged girls, I went part-time as a nurse after my first child was born and have been fortunate enough to maintain a fixed work schedule since then, thanks to an incredibly supportive unit manager. I work my 12-hour shifts every Monday and Saturday on Day Shift, while my husband works in his office from Tuesday through Friday. Because of our work schedules, we have been fortunate enough to always have a parent at home to take care of our kids, which has proven to be invaluable throughout the pandemic with Distance Learning for 1.5 years and now the ever-looming threat of needing to quarantine our kids at home at the drop of a dime.
This family schedule also means that I haven’t been able to pick up extra shifts in our PICU as nursing staff shortages have hit critically low levels everywhere. Never in my life have I felt the pull between needs in nursing and needs in motherhood more than now. The potential for personal burnout with the combination of the nurse and mother roles in a pandemic has loomed over me, and I have felt protective of myself while still trying to stay sensitive to the endless needs that exist around me.
With my vaccinated kids back in-person for school even as this Omicron variant has swept over the world in waves, I’ve paid close attention to the alerts and emails coming through my phone about the next new school protocol, the next new positive case identified on their school campus. In efforts to stay as informed as possible about what was happening in our School District, I logged onto the bimonthly School District Board meeting one night to hear what the Board and other community members were thinking about this current surge.
I stopped in my tracks as I listened to one of our District’s school nurses plead for more support and relief from the District. She described how completely overworked and overwhelmed the school nurses were, between their normal school nurse responsibilities, complicated contact tracing, paperwork to verify permission to return to school, COVID testing, vaccine administration, and endless phone calls. I listened to other school staff members vouch for the distress they’ve witnessed in the school nurses as they work 12-14 hour days, weekends included.
The District responded to these pleas by stating they had no objections to trying to hire more nurses, but the problem was there were no nurses in the community to be found. Everyone everywhere was competing heavily for the very scarce resource of available nurses.
I thought about how I had 5-6 hours at home on my off days while my kids were in school, time typically given to housework, meal preparation and other personal obligations. I listened to the school nurses plead for help, listened to the District say “There are no nurses to be found,” and I thought, I’m a nurse, I’m here. I was humbled as I acknowledged to myself that I knew little about school nursing, but still, I’m here. I can administer COVID tests, I can give vaccines, I can do contact tracing and paperwork. I tossed and turned all that night with the thought, “I have to help. I can’t not help.”
The next morning, I emailed the School District Board introducing myself and offering to help in any way I could. The Superintendent called me directly the following afternoon, looking to expedite the volunteer clearance process so that I could get started as soon as possible. I told him I’d just finished my fingerprinting and TB test clearance to volunteer at the school a few weeks ago, so we were already steps ahead. I was eager and nervous and grateful at the thought of providing any relief I could to these school nurses whom I considered to be my colleagues.
To continue reading this post click here: THE HEART OF NURSING Reflections on the Joys, Struggles, and Meaning in Nursing: A PICU Nurse’s Gratitude for Frontline School Nurses