How schools nurses have evolved and remained the same under covid guidelines

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The pandemic has altered many different school practices, including nursing ones. As per CDC and Department of Education Covid-19 guidelines, no more than one person at a time is allowed to be admitted into the office. Students are no longer permitted to lay down on the mattresses when they come in with a headache or stomach cramps, nor are they allowed to borrow heating pads. Despite the new protocols and the uncertainty of this time, “the Townsend Harris School Medical Office will continue to be a source of care and comfort,” said Nurse Linda Carter.

The office’s approach towards minor injuries, including cuts, scrapes, and bruises isn’t significantly different from their methods prior to the pandemic. Under both Covid and non-Covid protocols, they would assess the extent of the injuries—now in protective equipment (i.e. masks, gloves, and sometimes face shields) and then treat the student accordingly. For example, if a student has a fever of 100℉ or higher Ms. Carter said, “they must leave the school premises in the company of their parent or guardian.” 

To assist Nurse Carter, health aide Marlanea Sopp is in the office most days as well. “I get in at about 10 am every day. I help out with things like writing elevator passes and I would let the student’s teacher know if they were going to go home sick. I also help out with the immunization records so I would do the computer end of that. And then if a child needs a wheelchair I would put them in the wheelchair and then help them get downstairs when their parents get here.”   

When asked how much her duties and responsibilities have changed, Ms. Sopp said, “Well normally before the pandemic if a child needed to leave on an ambulance ride I would go with them, but I can’t do that anymore, they would have to go alone.” 

Nurse Carter and Ms. Sopp also talked about how this year they are no longer doing vision testing, though she suspects she’ll be able to conduct them again later this year. “We just haven’t received the lists,” said the Nurse. 

When asked what would happen if a student came in with COVID symptoms, Nurse Carter and Ms. Sopp said, “the student [would] be placed in an isolation area for the safety of the entire school community [and] the child’s parent or guardian [would] be contacted.”  

Townsend Harris students were asked how they felt about the new nurse restrictions. “I sprained my foot and I had to wait in the front portion of the nurses office instead of going inside. I know they were just trying to protect themselves and I don’t blame them as students are constantly in close contact as opposed to members of the faculty. Safety is important and I respect this policy,” said junior Shirooba Chadrakumar.

As the pandemic continues to have a profound effect on safety protocols, Ms. Carter and Ms. Sopp must continue working towards making the community a safer environment. These restrictions have been put in place since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. 

Photo by Audrey Chou