The words celebration and pandemic don’t typically belong in the same sentence. But we find ourselves in this place yet again, the third year in a row that School Nurse Day continues to be mired in COVID. There has been nothing typical about the last three School Nurse Days, always the Wednesday of Nurses Week. When we limped through our first pandemic School Nurse Day in 2020, it was hard to look too far into the future. Now we have become experts at pivoting among our other well-honed public health skills. The ever-changing variants and continued public pressure to end the pandemic before it is done with us create more challenges than we ever imagined.
Two years ago, the pandemic was brand new, we were still grappling with what it meant, and what was happening around us. Now we are more than twenty-six months into this new world and we find ourselves continuing to tread water, but moving closer to the shoreline. There is hope on the horizon, but we are tentative given all that has unfolded these past two-plus years. We continue to lead our schools through the uncertainty. Even if we do not have the official title of Chief Well-Being Officer, we earned it repeatedly this pandemic year and every year that preceded it and will follow.
School nurses have been tough and confident under the extreme pressure we have encountered. We have shared our challenges, triumphs, peaks, and valleys through social media, Zoom, and private messages. School nurses have connected to each other and deepened relationships that have been lifelines through the most consequential year in our lifetimes. We have spoken truth to power, even when our messages are not happily or even civilly received. We have shown vulnerability along with leadership, a sign of courage in a tumultuous time. While we may not have all of the answers, we have been guided by evidence, science, and public health principles.
At times, our workload has quadrupled and our stress level has been off the charts. We have also had periods of time where it almost felt like pre-pandemic school nursing, and we relish in those moments. But they seem short-lived as a new variant inevitably pops up. We walk in public health humility because as we have learned more about this virus, we have had to pivot time and time again.
School nurses have translated the ever-evolving mitigation strategies to keep our school communities healthy and safe. We have become expert contact tracers and trackers of this virus even when those impacted are uncooperative or do not believe in science. Care coordination is one of the hallmarks of our practice and it has been in high gear during COVID. School nurses have worked at the epicenter of the pandemic as COVID tried its best to invade the safe spaces we have created.
School nurses have been on the frontlines of COVID because there are no sidelines in this fight to keep our students and staff safe. We are the ultimate problem solvers, the go-to public health professional in our school buildings who have been tapped to ensure school safety and encourage compliance in an environment that sometimes fights against the recommendations that we know work.
Some of our colleagues report incredible support and collegiality that many of us only dream of experiencing. Some of us are leaving the profession, retiring early, or resigning. It has been another of those kinds of years, one where we also have to balance our own needs, wants, and family obligations. It is not all doom and gloom though, many school nurses have found their voices through this unnerving time. Our national profile has been lifted and more people understand the urgency and importance of having a school nurse in every building, every day.
I am so grateful for the many readers of this blog and for the brave school nurses who have shared their challenges and triumphs through these pages. More than 300,000 views later, The Relentless School Nurse blog continues to document the realities of school nursing pre and hopefully post-pandemic life. Thank you to every school nurse who has reached out, shared a post that spoke to them, or left a message of support. I see you and appreciate your dedication to our specialty nursing practice. We need to celebrate this day and every day, especially during the most challenging times.