I can say out loud that the winds are shifting and hope feels closer than it has felt in three years. From my vantage point, I see a healthier school population of both staff and students. There is a sense of equilibrium returning as we all look forward to Spring. Yes, I said it, hope is on the horizon. We can feel it, touch it, and wow, what a relief! It has been a long haul, but it finally feels like the worst of the worst is in our rearview mirror and brighter skies are ahead. Too many cliches are running through my mind, but you get the idea, things are BETTER!
Now comes the next steps in our recovery as a profession. School nurses who stayed through COVID, give yourself a huge standing ovation. Your efforts saved countless lives. The mistreatment and harsh words you endured did not deter you from implementing public health strategies to keep your school communities as safe as humanly possible. We banded together, to lift each other up in our darkest moments, so now we can continue those bonded relationships as we navigate this exciting new chapter. Being in the trenches of COVID has created lasting friendships and tested our resolve to push through the most difficult years that I can remember in my thirty-nine years of nursing.
For the school nurses who chose to resign, retire early, or leave the profession, your contribution is equally important. The decision you needed to make to move away from the chaos of COVID is noteworthy because you mirrored the importance of self-care for the rest of us. Nurses often put ourselves last on the care list, but you reminded us that our mental and physical health is equally important. I admire the school nurses who took a stand for themselves and appreciate the difficulty you struggled through to make your decision. Once a school nurse, always a school nurse, and you are always a part of our collective family.
As I write about hope on the horizon, I am reflecting on why I began this blog “before times,” in 2017. It is a good time to share my very first blog, published in July of 2017, as part of the “homework” assigned by past NASN Director of Communications, Margaret Cellucci, who led a blogging workshop at NASN 2017 conference in San Diego. I challenge the readers of my blog to answer my initial question:
The Relentless School Nurse: Will you be one too?
I am naming this blog the Relentless School Nurse because that is what I think it takes to be successful in our profession. We have to challenge ourselves to be relentless. Relentless School Nurses break through perceived barriers and look for solutions, often long after the school day is over. We seem to always be thinking of next steps for a project, wondering about outcomes for a student sent out for medical evaluation, or concerned about a family.
Relentless School Nursing calls us to expand our practice beyond the walls of our health offices and into the community. We understand the connection between home, school, and the health office. You cannot separate the impact on a student’s presenting complaint in our health offices because our work is on a continuum. Relentless School Nurses are leaders in their school communities, they are vigilant about safety, proactive about prevention and called upon as a resource by those they serve.
Nina Fekaris, our new NASN President spoke of the importance of School Nurses finding our voices, telling our stories and sharing our impact. This is my first attempt at blogging, but I have had the title of my blog in the back of my mind for some time. Thanks to Margaret Cellucci, NASN’s Director of Communications, I learned some great tips from her conference breakout session about blogging.
I decided at the conclusion of NASN 2017 conference that I will also be relentless about attending future conferences. I understand the value in sharing an intensive learning experience with 1000 school nurses from the US and beyond. Our annual gathering is necessary, rejuvenating and reignites the reason we do this very complex work. This was my 3rd conference and I finally understand the flow, recognize the unique traditions that belong to NASN like the affiliate rally!
My first conference was in Philly, my hometown, in 2015. The next year, in Indianapolis 2016, I presented a poster and this year I presented several workshops, collaborating with dear colleagues to create memorable learning experiences for our School Nurse attendees. When I think about my own personal and professional growth since 2015, I believe it is because I am a Relentless School Nurse. Relentless in advancing the practice of school nursing and both humbled and honored to be recognized for my contributions. Are you a Relentless School Nurse? Would you join me in exploring what that means? Consider commenting on this blog and start a discussion about what it means to you to be relentless in your practice.
I know there are many Relentless School Nurses who follow this blog. Please share your perspective, reach out and tell our community what is most important as we reimagine and redesign what it means to be a school nurse moving forward. We can repair our ruptured relationships, refocus our attention on thriving, not only surviving. We can move beyond treading water and gasping for air to refocusing our energies and implement the lessons we learned during COVID. Most urgently, we need to set and stick to keeping our boundaries, taking stands for our own well-being while continuing to care for others, and no longer tolerate intolerable working conditions.
I am looking forward to hearing from you, please send your thoughts and reflections to firstname.lastname@example.org.