School nurses see a changing role amid the pandemic

The role of a school nurse is more than just sending kids home when they are sick and fixing the occasional PE scrape. And during the pandemic, their role is gr
Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 7:17 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - The role of a school nurse is more than just sending kids home when they are sick and fixing the occasional PE scrape. And during the pandemic, their role is growing and changing.

“They are our public health experts, so we have been using their expertise to guide all of the decision-making that has happened,” said Colchester Superintendent Amy Minor.

She says in a global pandemic, schools let one member of their community take point and that’s their nurses.

“Now everything has amped up a little bit so that we really are on the forefront of making sure that we are keeping our building healthy, our community healthy,” said Deborah Deschamps, the district nursing supervisor in Colchester.

She says she spent the summer with colleagues poring over research from both the Vermont Department of Health, the CDC and other schools around the country, to best tailor a reopening plan for their schools.

She believes the hybrid model is a great way to start.

Students should be ready for health screenings, as well as a heightened awareness of social distancing, hand washing and the big one -- staying home if they show any form of sickness.

“That’s where our role really comes into play, helping provide the guidance the administrators need in terms of health and well-being,” said Deschamps.

If a student shows symptoms of COVID-19, a nurse will send them to a room to isolate until they can go home.

Colchester has six district nurses and they aren’t just looking out for students, but the community.

“We are trying to mitigate best we can so that they understand why we are doing what we are doing and why we feel it is the right time for students to return to school,” said Deschamps.

But even with the added responsibility of keeping students healthy in a pandemic and the hours of planning that went into getting ready, Colchester’s superintendent says the nurses are ready.

“We’re really lucky to have such dedicated and competent nurses and I know they are working hard to make sure that we reopen in a healthy way for our students and our staff,” said Minor.

Deschamps is also asking that students are checking in with their pediatrician, staying up to date on all immunizations and staying home if they develop any sort of illness.

There will also be a big emphasis on the flu shot this year, and Colchester is hoping to hold a flu shot clinic for students and staff when the vaccine becomes available.

Allergy concerns

As parents of students are making their last-minute preparations, parents of kids with allergies feel new school policies could pose some concerns.

The CDC has recommended schools have students eat their lunch at their desk in their classroom, but that can pose some unique challenges for kids with food allergies.

As parents of students are making their last minute preparations, parents of kids with allergies feel new school policies could pose some concerns.

Experts say teachers should be aware of the food allergens potentially present in their classroom while students eat their lunch and aware of which students have allergies.

Parents should have an anaphylaxis plan in place as well as keep open lines of communication with the school’s nurse and the student’s teachers.

Refills on Epinephrine auto-injector pens should also be ready to go for day 1.

WCAX News talked with an allergy expert, and she says this year is going to be unique, but it is important parents are prepared.

“It’s really important that families talk to their physicians ahead of time and make sure that they have that plan in place so that they can make that student feel comfortable and just have a plan all ready for the year,” said Allie Bahn with the Global Allergy and Asthma Patient Platform.

Preparedness is key in the case of an allergic reaction but that has to come through good communication between families and the school.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.