School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: A Conference Four Years in the Making


In March of 2020, as the world shut down, our New Jersey State School Nurse Association (NJSSNA) executive board made the decision to cancel our annual Spring conference. It was scheduled for March 27 – 28, 2020 and in the first days of March that unforgettable year, we were not sure what was ahead of us. I remember the long and difficult conversations about what to do, given the proximity of our conference, as the unknown was looming with news of a novel virus rapidly approaching. 

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, we knew we had made the right decision, even though days before, we were questioning our options. Our organization chose health and safety above last minute cancellation consequences, anticipated disappointment of our members and any financial losses that might be incurred. We said these words out loud, “we are school nurses, how can we hold an in-person meeting in light of a public health global emergency.” We canceled our conference, rightfully so, and knew within days that we had made the most protective decision.

Four years from our last in-person conference in March of 2019, we proudly hosted NJSSNA Spring 2023 this past weekend. The picture above is our amazing executive board and education committee who worked tirelessly to create an in-person conference four years in the making. It was a day of reunions, celebrations and learning opportunities that brought together close to 300 NJ school nurses.  We had an opening keynote speech from Dr. Kate King, president-elect of NASN and a closing keynote from Eric LeGrand, a star Rutgers University football player whose life was irrevocably changed after a devastating spinal cord injury. 

A snippet of scenes from the day:

We had a wide variety of breakout sessions, including “pump school” where school nurses could have hands on experiences with the newest technology in diabetic care.  This is a list of our learning sessions:


Diabetes Technology: Let’s Get Hands-On!


Revisiting the Role of the School Nurse as a Champion in SEL in a Post-Pandemic environment


Vision Screening: Education, Evidence-Based Tools, and Reducing the Gap Between Vision Screening and Eye Examinations


New Jersey Immunization Requirements: Review and Updates


Legal Hot Spots for School Nurses


Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES)


The Role of the School Nurse in Suicide Prevention


Human Trafficking & the Healthcare Response


Diabetic Pump School 


Relax, Refresh, Renew Lounge 


I can’t say enough about the importance of being back together in real life. While Zoom certainly kept us connected, there is nothing quite like being with dear friends, and colleagues after so many years of disruption. School nurses have experienced significant emotional and moral injury during COVID.  It does feel like our healing is happening, ruptured relationships are being repaired and maybe, just maybe, we are finally coming out of our darkest hours. 

There are so many people to thank and I never want to leave anyone out. The chairs of this amazing event, Karen Haber and Cathy Grano, led the education committee on the journey of creating an event that has once again, brought the level of a national conference to our beautiful state. The executive board of NJSSNA, led by President Donna Pleus, President-elect Eileen Gavin, Executive Director Rose Catton and recently retired Executive Director Marie Sasso, are a testament to believing in the power of school nurses to sustain hope, even in the most difficult times. The theme of our conference was “Reimagining School Nursing,” a timely and much needed reframing of our practice.  Our powerhouse behind the scenes was Northeastern University School Health Academy (NEUSHA) who provided technical support with registration, speaker coordination and nursing contact hours. Dr. Kathy Hassey, Co-Director of NEUSHA joined us on-site. 


NJSSNA is looking forward to our 2024 spring conference and thank all of the wonderful school nurses who joined us for 2023. There is power in joining our national and state organizations and attending conferences for professional and personal growth. You will come away invigorated and renewed from the energy of a room filled with colleagues who become friends. One of my most honored roles is being NJSSNA’s Director to NASN. My school nursing practice is forever enriched and elevated by participating in my state organization. Join in the fun, learning and camaraderie by supporting your school nursing organizations. You will find the elusive support that school nurses need most. 

Very special appreciation to the many sponsors and exhibitors who supported our conference and brought the best giveaways (we all love the goodies) along with important information, initiatives and products!  Here is a list of our sponsors and vendors: Thank you to the SPONSORS_EXHIBITORS of the NJSSNA Spring 2023 Conference! (1)

A Note from NJSSNA 2023 Spring Conference: Changing Lives One Diaper at a Time


New Jersey State School Nurses are devoted to promoting the health of students, families, and the community. Diapers are essential to meeting a child’s basic needs and cost about $1,000 per year per child. 5.2 million babies and toddlers live in poor or low-income families, limiting their access to diapers and wipes. Diaper need is a lack of sufficient diapers to keep a child clean and healthy. A lack of diapers can lead to a number of consequences including skin breakdown, illness and infections, and loss of school and work time. Please help us to address diaper need and support NJ families by donating to the Central Jersey Diaper Bank. Thank you for your support!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.