One of the benefits of having more than 900 blog posts is that I can look back at where we were at any given time in years past. Here is my blog post from exactly one year ago 12/31/2021: The Relentless School Nurse: Oh, 2022, I Really Wanted to Welcome You!
The final paragraphs could have been written today, they are as appropriate now as they were then, only the year has changed from 2022 to 2023.
Winter break came in the nick of time. It was such a huge relief to step away from the rising COVID cases that were swirling all around us, especially in those last few weeks of school. Time and space to decompress have rejuvenated my spirits, hopefully, enough to give me the fuel to keep going.
Heading into 2022 feels much like the comic pictured above. We are peeking around the corner, turning the calendar page into the new year from a distance. I love the sense of community that this comic depicts, one that school nurses represent. We have joined forces to support each other’s challenges. Even if it has been virtual, the support has helped immeasurably.
My hope for 2022 is that when we look back on this year we end it on a positive note. Imagine how we will feel if the pandemic has subsided and we have returned to school nursing without the weight of the world on our shoulders. I am going to hold onto that hope, even though at this moment I want to stay in bed with the covers over my head. Thank you to all of the readers of this blog who help motivate me to keep writing and sharing, especially during the past few years. Bring it on 2022, you can’t scare us, we are school nurses, relentless ones.
Well, my hopes for 2022 did not come to fruition. The pandemic has not subsided. In fact, there is a new Scrabble variant making its way across the globe, hospitalizations are rising and we now have added RSV and flu to COVID in what is being called a tridemic. Dr. Kathy Priohoda, one of my Rutgers-Camden Nursing colleagues explains the triple threat we are facing in this article:
While I wish we could bubble-wrap our loved ones and ourselves from all that is swirling around us, I will continue to mask in public spaces, including school. Hopefully, many of you are doing the same!
I am reposting the list of school nurse-sourced recommendations for saving our own workforce. We are still at risk, many of our colleagues have or will be leaving our ranks and there are more and more vacant positions in school districts across the country. This list continues to grow with feedback from readers:
- 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, and 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 well-being 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, giving 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, moving into 2023. We need us!
It is important to end this final blog post of 2022 on a positive note! Thank you, Nurse Holly, for sharing your beautiful poem, a tribute to school nurses, and hopeful wishes for 2023!