Schools nurses are on the front lines of many childhood maladies. Some are things to be expected, from a scraped knee to the common cold. Some are more serious, such as the flu or head lice or pink eye. And others can even be deadly, such as pertussis, or whooping cough.
Today, school nurses are a key part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a link between their school communities and public health agencies. But what do school nurses do when classes are dismissed for several weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of Coronavirus? Nurse, of course.
Several Des Moines Public Schools’ nurses are volunteering their time at Iowa’s 211 service, a place people can call for advice on what to do if they have Coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
On Saturday, Beth Angier from Central Campus, Terrie Kruse from North High School, and Jeanne Mark from Hoover High School were in a conference room at United Way of Central Iowa, staffing a bank of phones that was part of the statewide 211 network. They provided guidance to Iowans on a range of matters, from questions about Coronavirus symptoms such as a fever or cough to whether to be worried for someone who had recently taken a cruise to concern for a loved one serving overseas in the military.
School nurses are humble about their work during this time. When asked about why they were spending their time of to help the community, Beth, Terrie and Jeanne responded in one voice:
“As nurses, with many years of experience, we are trained to help others, so we just couldn’t stand idly by during this time of great need. We are grateful to be able to use our training and experience to help our community with their health concerns and provide education to diminish community spread and save lives during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
The work of school nurses has been an important part of the school district’s response to Coronavirus. When DMPS became the first school district to announce it was temporarily closing in response to the pandemic, Diane Gladson, RN, the health services supervisor at DMPS, became a key member of the district’s COVID-19 response team. She is the conduit between the nurse, public health agencies and district leadership, in addition to being a regular source for the news media on how school districts are responding to this emergency. In addition, twelve school nurses who had been working part-time agreed to move to full-time status to make sure the school district’s health team was at full capacity.
One day – hopefully sooner rather than later – school will resume, and nurses along with teachers, principals and the entire DMPS staff will returning to focusing on the needs of our students. Until then, school nurses are among the countless people responding to this global pandemic.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (a cough, fever and and shortness of breath) call 211. In addition, you can get additional information at https://www.211iowa.org/ or download the Iowa 211 mobile app from the App Store or Google Play.