The new “you do you” anti-public health approach to COVID has seeped into school classrooms and it is disheartening, to say the least. Welcome back to school is #COVIDunSafe in the new 2022-2023 school year.
Week #1 is under our belts here in New Jersey and many other northeastern states. It has been exhausting, with just a glimmer of remembering summer. It is clear that our COVID precautions have been thrown out, like the discarded masks I find littering the streets. There are few places that have any COVID mitigation strategies, yet how very concerning that school is one of them. The only space where masks are required is in the nurses’ offices. There is little contact tracing happening, vague messaging about possible exposures, suggestions of wearing masks if exposed, and the ability to return to school for COVID-positive students and staff on day six.
I am very thankful to Project N95 for their generous donation of adult and preschool-size masks for my schools. I have shared them with my schools with great appreciation. I am happy to report that the majority of my preschools have continued universal masking for now. That is not true in the public school buildings in my district, and most others in my state.
This is year #22 for me, I remain committed to serving my students and families, and advancing the practice of school nursing. Our profession is under undue stress and I see, read and hear the pleas for help from colleagues across the country. Much of my summer was spent deeply thinking about possible next steps, ways to set boundaries at school and beyond, and most importantly, strategizing on how to garner support for school nursing.
We need help friends, we cannot continue to shoulder the full burden of health services for a school community alone. To begin with, it is unsafe, unrealistic, and has taken a huge toll on our physical and mental health as a profession. COVID has laid bare all that is unmanageable and untenable in school nursing, yet we continue to soldier on because after all, we are nurses. But that sentiment is exactly how and why we have arrived here because we are nurses.
We can represent all that makes us proud to be a nurse, but martyrdom is a relic from the past and has not served us well. Because in the mix of it all, our needs count too. That is what we lost, or perhaps never had. Let’s center our needs, along with our students and school staff this new school year. We can open a new chapter, a new way of being, along with the new school year.