Since 1972, National School Nurses Day has been set aside to celebrate this unique and specialized division of nursing. This year Governor Janet Mills and the Maine Department of Education join the Maine Association of School Nurses (MASN) to celebrate and honor school nurses on May 12th, recognizing ALL Maine school nurses as the 2020-2021 “School Nurses of the Year.”
“This past year, unlike any other, school nurses in particular across the State of Maine have helped adapt with grace and grit to protect the health of our children,” said Governor Mills in her video message to Maine school nurses.
Traditionally, school nurses have been charged with ensuring students are safe, healthy, and ready to learn. They are responsible for bridging the gap between healthcare and education. However, since last March, the COVID-19 pandemic has exhausted school district resources and launched school nurses into new and uncharted territory. It has redefined the role both in school buildings and communities.
School nurses serve as a critical health hub for students, ensuring that students are ready for learning by managing complex chronic conditions; identifying and addressing mental health issues; leveling the field on health disparities and promoting healthy behaviors; enrolling children in health insurance and connecting families to healthcare providers; handling medical emergencies and now, navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic by testing, tracking and educating students and school personnel.
In a pandemic, nursing requires a focus on individual patient care, as well as a larger perspective of public health. Nursing skill, knowledge, intuition, and practice does not stop at the four walls of a school, but must encompass the community at large. There is a constant awareness of how decisions affect others inside and outside of school. Students’ lives don’t end when the last bell rings and they board the bus home. These same students go to work, volunteer, visit family, and play sports. School nurses shoulder a responsibility to keep children healthy so that the community remains healthy.
Generally (in a non-pandemic year) school nurses operate behind the scenes in “stealth mode”, providing care, comfort and pain relief. This year however, school nurses have navigated insurmountable pressure to explain and defend community health measures and promote health and safety for all school community members. This year, school nurses have been working especially hard to facilitate students’ return to in-person learning. This means putting all the recommended mitigation measures in place while supporting teaching staff as they meet educational needs of all students.
And so, as we approach May 12th, please remember to thank your school nurse with an elbow bump and congratulate them on being named Maine School Nurse of the Year 2021.