It’s been bad, really bad. We thought 2020-2021 was bad, that was a walk in the park on a windy day in comparison to this miserable year. So, goodbye and good riddance to a school year that most of us would like to forget. I know there are those who may feel differently, but for the majority of the school nurses that have crossed my path, this one will be in the top worst school years list. It may have made us more resilient, but at what cost? Why must we wear resilience as a badge of courage? Schools are supposed to be places for students to learn, grow and flourish. But between COVID, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and the “parental choice” movement, schools have become flash points for a divided nation.
Phew, is the word that comes to mind.
- Phew, what a year!
- Phew, that we did not lose a student or staff member to COVID.
- Phew, that somehow I did not contract COVID (yet), even though I was exposed so many times.
- Phew, that we can soon breathe a huge sigh of relief that for a time, we will not be responsible for other people’s children.
- Phew, that there is time between now and September for school nurses to recharge, renew and recommit to this most complicated, but rewarding nursing practice.
The word, I really wanted to use also has an “F” sound, but I will be more restrained. Although, here is a photo a school nurse friend shared of a message that she made for each of her colleagues! I am sure we can all relate!
This summer holds hope for a reprieve from the unrelenting stress, second-guessing, and challenges to school nursing judgment that has created difficult work environments. I have written about our collective experiences extensively through COVID. Pandemic school nursing has left us shaken to the core, questioning our next steps and wondering what we can do as a profession to regroup. Here are some highlights of the action steps that I have shared over the past two years. Think about them, add to them, and let me know what you think!
How can we save ourselves, our workforce, and our beloved profession? The first step may be for superintendents and school leadership to listen to us. School nurses have the answers to save ourselves and in turn, our school communities. Here are some solutions garnered from the many hours of deeply revealing community conversations with school nurses:
- We need to work as a health services team, with staffing that meets the enormity of the challenge at hand. School nurses cannot work in isolation anymore, it was never sustainable.
- Support your staff, do not allow or excuse abusive language or behavior directed towards school nurses who are attempting to implement the public health mitigation strategies that keep students and staff safe. Stand up for us and protect our wellbeing and safety.
- School nurses need to be supervised by school nurses. We need leadership that has an intimate understanding of the full scope of school nursing practice. Create Health Services Departments at the district level, with opportunities for school nurses to have upward mobility and grow their leadership skills.
- Say thank you, it goes a long way to give us fuel to keep going. Recognize and include school nurses in school activities and celebrations.
- Value our educational preparation, leadership skills, and consensus-building, we are trusted members of the school community. Include school nurses on committees, but give us uninterrupted release time to participate.
- The world of education needs to create a pathway for school nurses to have chances to grow, and for upward mobility for those who want that responsibility. School nurses are Chief Wellness Officers, give us a chance to flourish in leadership roles instead of minimizing our impact.
- Pay a wage commensurate with our professional expertise and education. Create a salary scale that recognizes our work experience prior to entering school nursing.
It’s our time friends. Past time actually, that we focus on our own well-being. While yes, it is about our students, if we lose our capacity to care, it will impact the entire school community. Compassion fatigue is rampant in our ranks. I gently encourage the readers of this blog to rediscover what makes you happy, what promotes your own well-being and how can you make yourself a priority, not just this summer, but moving into 2022-2023. We need us!