A day in the life of a school nurse

A day in the life of a school nurse
Posted on 09/30/2021
Morganton, NC – Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021

Mountain View Elementary School nurse Tonya Kiser often arrives at work an hour before the school day officially starts, and Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, was no exception. A few early birds were in the car rider line waiting for student drop-off to start and other staff members were making their way in as the building prepared to come to life with 712 students ready for another day of learning. Like her 23 fellow school nurses, Kiser is working on the front lines through unprecedented times.

One of the last “normal” days for Burke County Public Schools nurses was March 2, 2020, as they hosted an employee health fair on a teacher work day. Reports and speculation about COVID-19 were swirling, but little did any of us know that 12 days later the governor would shutter schools. Burke County Public Schools was quick to open daycare sites around the district, and school nurses helped care for the limited number of preK through 12-year-olds on school campuses. The school nurses’ duties drastically changed Sept. 21, 2020, when the student population of 12,000 was welcomed back to face-t0-face learning.

In normal school years, school nurses see students for illnesses such as asthma, allergies, seizures, tummy aches and runny noses. Over the past 18 months, the nurses have taken on the additional duties of helping the schools and the Burke County Health Department contact trace; educate us on measures to take to prevent COVID-19 and recognize the symptoms; communicate with parents and staff when cases impact schools; and track and input data. During the vaccination phase of the pandemic, Burke County Public Schools nurses even went out into the community and assisted in giving vaccines.

Burke County Public Schools followed nurse Kiser for the whole day on Sept. 17 and documented some of her day on the district Instagram’s page. Here we take a closer look at what a day in the life of a school nurse is like during COVID-19.

Between 6:59 a.m. at 3:18 p.m she:
- Straightened up and recleaned her already clean office to ward off any germs that may have dared to linger overnight.
- Checked that the Care Room was ready to receive any students with symptoms or those who needed to be separated from the rest of the population.
- Reviewed stacks of paperwork, immunization records and files needed for the start of any school year to make sure students are healthy to attend school, during a pandemic or not.
- Ushered a student to the Care Room after he showed up at school without the proper paperwork to be able to return from quarantine. She helped him take off his backpack and encouraged him to eat his breakfast while she called a doctor’s office.
- Called and left a message with the doctor’s office trying to confirm the student’s negative test.
- Received word that the student’s test was negative and he was good to be at school. - - She tenderly consoled the child and let him know he could return to class.
- Assisted front office staff with paperwork on another student that needed to be verified.
- Took calls from parents of students who have been told they need to quarantine for possible exposure outside of school.
- Updated various reports, including nurse’s notes on students and a spreadsheet for the district that records student and staff pending, positive and quarantine scenarios.
- Fought back tears of feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the weight of dealing with the pandemic for the past 564 days.
- Received help from a preK teacher to enter student data.
- Made phone calls with the help of school parent educator Ted Pedro to parents regarding general medical care forms.
- Delivered medical forms to teachers for kindergarten students to be in compliance with check ups and vaccines.
- Checked on a student who was not wearing a mask to see if the student has an exemption.
- Uploaded emergency plan information into PowerSchool.
- Worked with Pedro again on two other students to determine if they could return to school.
- Contacted two different medical offices to track down test results.
- Contacted a doctor’s office to clarify doctor’s notes on a student’s return.
- Washed her hands for the umptenth time.
- Answered a call for help for a fight and a student runner.
- Vowed to leave at 3 p.m. and get some well deserved and much needed rest over the weekend.
- Entertained a student while the front office worked out details of who could check her out.
- Answered a question for a student who only wanted Nurse Kiser to help her.
- Tidied up her office and prioritized stacks for Monday.
- Gathered her things and turned off her light.

Burke County Public Schools Director of Nursing Miranda Michaels said, “I am so proud of all of our school nurses. They truly go above and beyond each day to face challenges they may not have known that they were signing up for. It is challenging, they are exhausted, but they keep showing up each day to give 110 percent, even on nights and weekends. We took a pledge to practice the profession faithfully, elevate the standards of the profession, be loyal and devote ourselves to the welfare of those we care for and our work right now consists of doing that for our students during a pandemic. Our school nurses are doing that honorably.”

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan said, “I am in awe of our school nurses and the compassion and professionalism they have displayed over the past 18 months. They are so important to our schools in normal times, and we could not operate face-to-face learning without them. Words are not enough to show them our appreciation, but I do hope they know their work has not gone unnoticed. We are forever grateful to them for their time and dedication.”

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