School Nurses and Virtual Learning

School Nurses and Virtual Learning

What is the future of school nurses when it comes to virtual learning? Will they still be needed? Will they work remotely and chime in to care for the student, will they travel to the home of the student when they need to be seen? We dive in to answer your questions about school nurses and virtual learning. 

Furloughs 

It’s no surprise that nurses were furloughed by the masses when the pandemic shut down our schools and forced breaks while the school districts worked out how students could transition to online learning. However, what has been unknown is if nurses will go back to their daily duties once schools re-open and what they could do in the meantime now that virtual learning is becoming the norm, and schools begin to reopen. According to Palm Beach Post, over 233 nurses were furloughed in Palm Beach County alone. 

Despite the furloughs, many nurses are in the process of finding new jobs because there are so many unknown variables when it comes to going back to work. Will they need all of us? Will hours be cut? or Wouldl they require additional training or credentials? Some schools may find themselves in a bit of trouble when the time does come, because their trusted staff may have moved forward with new opportunities.

Potential New Assignments 

With no injured students appearing at their door, no pupils with chronic conditions arriving for a visit, why would school nurses be needed in a virtual learning environment?

“There’s a lot that a school nurse can do virtually,” says Linda Mendonca, RN, MSN, PHNA-BC, NCSN, FNASN,  president-elect of the 17,000-member National Association of School Nurses (NASN). Even with virtual learning, school nurses provide a variety of important health services.

Things that happen at school, too, often happen at home. Many parents are trying to juggle working from home while also being a parent, teacher, and recess monitor. Kids hurt themselves, have allergic reactions, stomach aches, and cold symptoms, and sometimes need more care than a parent can or knows how to provide. Rather than the nurse coming to the families home when they need assistance, some schools are offering their nurses remotely to the students when they need them. Additionally, these nurses can assist with remote screening for COVID, and help with coordinating lunch meals for families in need, and even connecting students and parents to resources for mental health. 

Corona Virus Testing 

Testing for COVID is another role that might become part of the new scope of work for School Nurses. Some schools are offering drive-by testing, are requiring testing before the students can return, and more importantly, offering testing on-site for students that are experiencing symptoms. Unlike other medical professionals, this is more of a as-needed and per-diem role when the schools aren’t open. Thus providing some hours, but it continues to be an unviable option long-term. In addition to COVID testing, some schools are utilizing the healthcare staff at their school districts to prepare for re-opening. This has been one of the more promising roles as school nurses have experience with planning events, coordinating resources and solving problems. The CDC created a resource guide for re-opening, and the school nurses are an intricate part of assisting with these procedures and plans. 

Creating Healthier Schools 

Students spend about 8 hours a day in school, making the school setting an ideal place to teach and model healthy behaviors. CDC’s Virtual Healthy School provides examples of what a healthy school looks like and how to implement the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model to create a healthier school.

The Virtual Health School is an online, interactive tool that provides innovative learning experiences to help make schools healthier. While the Virtual Healthy School’s major themes are nutrition, physical education, and physical activity, and caring for students with chronic health conditions, like asthma and diabetes—the tool includes examples of the 10 components of the WSCC model incorporated into the entire school.

In a Rural Area

If you’re a school nurse in a rural area, things will likely be very different from the school districts that have access to more resources, and families with access to email addresses and high-speed internet, cameras, microphones, and computers. If you’re in a rural area, check out this article for more information. 

Telemedicine 

If your school or a school district you’re thinking of applying to is offering telemedicine for their students, It’ll be imperative that you prepare for what your new office and work life will be like. To help with this, check out our recent article, 5 Tips on Transitioning to Telemedicine.

Are you currently working as a school nurse, were furloughed, or thinking of becoming one? Let us know in the comments below.  

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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