Reports show Covid is overwhelming school nurses nationwide
As students are back at schools across the U.S., school nurses are confronting real challenges. Most obviously, they face a huge expansion of their already excessive workloads, as explained in a September 2021 piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer. But as the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported on the same day, some school nurses – like the one in Cheyenne who resigned over lax quarantine rules – also face bad Covid policies.
September 20, 2021 – Two news items published today signal the crisis that Covid-19 is already presenting for U.S. school nurses, even though the new in-person school year has just started. The crisis extends from small rural school districts to large urban ones.
The Sheridan Press had Jasmine Hall’s article, from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, headlined “School nurse in Cheyenne resigns over district quarantine rules.” That piece reported that Kay Dersham, a veteran school nurse, had resigned in protest after the school board voted to make quarantining and testing optional for students and staff who have been exposed to people with Covid, contrary to health department recommendations. Dersham also said she was expected to ignore the failure of students and staff to wear masks on buses. She argued that political concerns were overriding public health, and that school nurses were not being treated like knowledgeable health professionals. Dersham said she could no longer endure being asked to violate her professional responsibilities and risk her nursing license. The piece did a good job explaining her concerns, although it might have included reaction from the school board.
Meanwhile, The Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted some different threats Covid is posing in a longer report by Kristen A. Graham, “Philly’s school nurses are exhausted as staff shortages and COVID-19 double their workload.” That article said the nurses face massive overwork, as they try to do their usual jobs – and most were grossly understaffed even before the pandemic – while at the same time managing the public health response to the virus for hundreds or even thousands of students and staff. That means extensive Covid testing, contact-tracing, compliance and related regimens, all with insufficient supplies and other resources. The article offered alarming anecdotes about conscientious school nurses being pushed to the brink, as well as valuable context about their long-term staffing problems. And as the piece noted, the nurses are already burning out and considering other options, such as higher paying travel contracts. One nurse noted that even the grueling, risky work of caring for Covid patients in a hospital at least offers a certain level of support from other nurses. The item had good quotes from several nurses, but none more powerful than this one:
“At school, I feel people treat us like bottomless wells that can be continuously drained but never refilled.”
We thank all of those responsible for these important but distressing reports.
See the article “School nurse in Cheyenne resigns over district quarantine rules,” by Jasmine Hall, posted in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on September 20, 2021.
See the article by Kristen A. Graham, “Philly’s school nurses are exhausted as staff shortages and COVID-19 double their workload,” published on September 20, 2021 by the Philadelphia Inquirer.