Here is a message from our friend, Judy Doran, the Maine school nurse who writes “Maine Points” from her health office. She became activated when she read the recent NASN/CDC survey that revealed the urgent need for mental health support for school nurses. The one where more than 8000 school nurses from across the country responded and more than half shared that they have been harassed or threatened during COVID.
Here are Judy’s words, in her unique style, asking for us to write letters to our school boards, communities, and legislators, both local and national so they are aware of the survey results and the urgency for action. Judy’s uber-talented artist daughter, Sofie Rasmussen, drew the illustration below to acknowledge School Nurses’ Day 2021.
- It is typically short, between 750 and 800 words.
- It has a clearly defined point.
- It has a clearly defined point of view.
- It represents clarity of thinking.
- It contains the strong, unique voice of the writer.
- You can find where to submit your piece by googling your paper.
- Please see the links below for some very helpful links if you’d like to dig deeper into Op Ed writing. The Op Ed Project and How to Write an Op Ed or Column and How to Place an Op-Ed in Your Local Newspaper The Basics on Op-Eds
I would like to bring attention to survey results that asked 8,000 school nurses 121 questions about their mental health during COVID. The survey, a collaborative effort between the Center for Disease Control, and the National Association of School Nurses was titled, “Mental Health of School Nurses in the US during the COVID Pandemic”. Here’s a sampling: 48% felt bullied, threatened, or harassed, 30% noted PTSD, 24% felt depressed, 22% felt anxiety, 39% experienced stigma or discrimination, and 24% received job-related threats. Almost half (48%) reported at least one adverse mental health condition in the two weeks prior to completing the survey in March 2022.
The results are not a surprise to school nurses. The data points are sobering, and sad and show urgency for supporting school nurses.s We are responsible for other people’s children, all 56 million of them. As you can see for yourself our ranks have suffered. Additionally, less than 40% of our nation’s schools support a full-time RN, and the higher the number of students living in poverty in any particular district, the more likely the school will not have an RN. We are not in top condition to manage the increasingly complex nature of school health and in spite of everybody’s strongest wish, COVID is still a presence in schools. School nurses are dealing with it daily and now with zero mitigation strategies, their work is even more invisible. Nurses are still at risk (maybe even more so now) for harassment and threats.
We can see what the problem is, what the fallout is, and how we’re feeling. The question is, what are we going to do about it? As a profession, we have some thoughts: We need support, a full-service team, respect for our professional training, and a wage that reflects our education, professional experience, and decision-making authority. We need a professional ladder of career growth that is designed for school health. We need to be evaluated & supervised by school nurse leaders. We need flexibility in our schedules to participate in school-level health and safety committees. We need subs so we are not running from building to building caring for students we do not know. Most importantly, we need to be treated with the respect that we extend. Bullying, harassment, and threats cannot be tolerated. It is driving seasoned school nurses out of their health offices into early retirement and is sending new school nurses to seek other work opportunities.
As a society, we have an obligation to support the folks who are caring for your children. We need something urgently and immediately, and this one is easier to do than the systemic changes noted above. To every parent, staff member, or administrator who has thanked us and acknowledged our efforts, I say THANK YOU! To those who haven’t thought to, please give your child’s nurse a smile and thanks. To those who went out of their way to be unkind or threatening, please don’t do that anymore. Maybe try to follow what is proudly displayed in a 4th-grade hallway……” In a world where you can be anything just be kind”.
Your school nurses are depending on your kindness and grace while they themselves heal and tend to your children, all 56 million of them.
Judy Doran has given full permission to share her letter or create our own version, the point is to get this important information into the hands of the general public, legislators, and our school communities. If we don’t ask for what we need, the answer is always NO. We cannot remain silent, and now we have the data to support our call to action. Use this infographic, and share it with parents, administrators, teachers, and the community.
2 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: Let’s Write Letters for Impact!”
School nurses are facing burnout like never before. In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic where healthcare workers went from mildly respected to “heroes” and now villains enforcing the rules, the school nurses have been overwhelmed and beaten down with heaps of expectations and very little help.
In addition to our regular jobs of managing students’ diverse health needs and chronic conditions, immunization compliance, day to day injuries and illness, helping students with their mental health, helping teachers with their mental health, clerical work that is expected to be done, and organizing screenings we have been also tasked with Covid testing (schools with 400 – 2000 students), contact tracing, quarantine enforcement, mask enforcement, organizing classroom quarantines and masking, keeping up with the ever changing rules and protocols for managing Covid in schools and being the knowledge ambassador of all things Covid.
Many of us spent almost a year working from home trying to navigate how to be a school nurse from home while some of us spent that year continuing to work in our school buildings directly facing the deadliest time of Covid with little to no support or even recognition. We then went into a full school year loaded with new and changing Covid protocols, nonstop positive cases that required coordinating the logistics of contact tracing and quarantining hundreds of students and teachers sometimes.
No one noticed.
The immense pressure put on us to not only be the person with all the knowledge because we are the Registered Nurses but to singlehandedly coordinate the mitigation efforts in our schools has caused many of us to have greatly increased anxiety (22%), depression (24%), PTSD (30%), and felt bullied and harrassed related to our jobs (48%!!!). Many school nurses have quit or decided to retire. It is a dire situation when school nurses would rather retire early or go to work in the hospital where they feel they will be more respected and treated better (those that have experience working in the hospitals know how bad it has to be to make that choice.)
We need help. We can not do this alone! We need to ensure that there is a nurse in every building, and for some more than one nurse. We need extra nurses and subs to help cover absences (because nurses get sick too and have families that get sick). We need competitive pay to ensure the newer school nurses will stay and to make it worthwhile for us to stay. We need to be evaluated and supervised by school nurse leaders who understand our position. We need a professional ladder of career growth specific to school nurses. We need assistance paying for the education we are required to have specific to school health. We are human, we need understanding and patience and respect.
For those admins and parents who have supported us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This hasn’t been easy for anyone but we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. We need the continuing support and understanding of the school and district admins and the parents. For those that feel like it is ok to threaten, harass, refuse to comply please understand that we are doing our best to follow the protocols that we are given by the Health Department and the CDC. We aren’t making the rules but it is our job to ensure that they are followed to the best of our abilities.
Excellent message Emme! I hope you share this within your school community too! Thank you for responding!