The day after school ended, I jumped on a plane for the first time in 28 months and headed to Atlanta for the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) 2022 Conference. This is the first time that we have gathered in person since 2019 in Denver. While I have been back to school for quite a long time, I have not really been out in the world, if that makes sense. I have stayed close to home and kept to a specific routine. I didn’t realize how cloistered my life has been until I was sitting on the plane heading toward Atlanta. I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the moment when the picture turned from black and white to technicolor. I felt out in the world again, and suddenly there was a space for healing to begin too.
I felt joy for the first time in forever. The weight of the pandemic was lifted, even if is only temporary. The enormous responsibility of caring for other people’s children was off my shoulders. I felt the freedom of being off-duty and suddenly I was in a room of other school nurses who had walked the same path these last few years. There were tears of relief at being together again, the joy of reuniting after many years of separation. There was a giddiness of meeting friends in real life that were Zoom buddies or Twitter friends. The emotions ran high at the conference.
My birthday is June 28th and I celebrated it with dear friends who made me feel so special and loved; the next best thing to being with my family. I love the traditions of the NASN conference, delayed for two years, but not lost. I was beyond honored to be inducted as a Fellow into the National Academy of School Nursing; the FNASN credential is now part of my signature line. There are so many special moments that I want to capture and archive in my memory bank.
The most meaningful memories are those encounters with readers of this blog. I was amazed at the number of school nurses who came up to me to let me know that my blog posts had helped them through the pandemic. I was so touched by these conversations, the special encounters, and the shared moments of connection that will forever be entrusted to my memory and heart. I am so thankful to each and every one of you that shared your appreciation and experiences with me during the conference. I value my readers and am so grateful that the blogs I have released into the cyberworld have landed in safe spaces where they are read and are found helpful.
My goal has always been to amplify the voice of school nursing, to tell stories from my health office and yours so that there is a better understanding of the scope and importance of our work. I began this journey exactly 5 years ago after a NASN workshop on blogging run by Margaret Cellucci, the prior Director of Communications for NASN. It was Margaret that sparked the flame of The Relentless School Nurse blog which has now reached 344,000 viewers since that first blog post in 2017. My first blog was about the impact of #NASN2017, and how it was important to find our voices as school nurses. That challenge continues today. Here is data from the last few years:
Thank you to all the readers of this blog. Your feedback gives me the energy and impetus to continue this journey. I love sharing stories from your health offices, so please continue to reach out. Email your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to publically thank the state school nursing organizations that have invited me to present at your conferences. It is an honor to be invited to share my journey with school nurses across the country.
While I acknowledge attending in-person conferences is a privilege, school nurses should be financially supported to attend. Thankfully NASN has a justification toolkit for members to advocate for themselves. There will be one specific to #NASN2023, but now is the time to plant the seeds for next year. Start planning now for #NASN2023, in Orlando!