Alleviating the Increased Burden of the Pandemic
Who hasn’t wound up in the school nurse’s office at some point during their education? You went to school feeling fine, but soon after, you started feeling not so great. And in that time between when you left the classroom and before your parents could pick you up, the school nurse was a lifesaver.
With schools reopening in the midst of a pandemic, that scenario will become all the more frequent. School nurses will face the same health risks as their counterparts in hospitals but will be reliant on the resources of already underfunded school districts. Just like businesses stepped up for hospital workers during the PPE shortages, they should do the same for the only on-the-scene healthcare specialists at schools.
- Planning for the return to school
- Establishing protocols for assessing individuals with symptoms
- Setting up isolation areas for sick students and teachers
- Developing virtual care plans for districts that are on a fully virtual or hybrid model
- Collecting data on the spread of the coronavirus in schools.
While companies won’t be able to assist with all the new duties of school nurses, there are still a few ways businesses can help school nurses adapt their districts to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, the same PPE supply issues that affected hospital doctors, nurses, and techs at the start of the pandemic will also impact schools. As the primary source of healthcare in schools, school nurses will be tasked with ensuring teachers, staff, and students are as safe as can be under the circumstances. This process includes distributing masks, keeping surfaces clean, and caring for potentially coronavirus-positive students in conjunction with other ill or injured students.
- General retail stores have placed purchasing limits on masks, hand sanitizer, no-touch thermometers, and other supplies, but they should lift those restrictions for school nurses. Be sure to update your e-commerce sites to reflect those in-store policies. In order to remove the online limit for nurses or teachers only, consider using a service, like ID.me, to verify teacher and nurse credentials online.
- At the start of the pandemic, businesses in various industries developed programs to collect and provide nurses with PPE. For example, Tieks asked customers to sew masks in exchange for a gift card, and then delivered those masks to those in need. TULA skincare donated 100% of profits from one of their facemask products to frontline workers. Merrell donated shoes and neck gaiters to nurses (although recent research has suggested that neck gaiters – at least porous fleece neck gaiters – may not be effective at preventing the spread). Similar programs should be created for school nurses and teachers.
- Local businesses can set up donation drives – similar to a normal year’s backpack drives – to collect donations of disposable masks, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer from concerned citizens. Every year around 94% of teachers pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket for extra classroom supplies due to underfunding of schools. There has been no increase in federal pandemic relief funds for schools for the 2020-2021 school year, meaning that school nurses teachers will likely need to purchase their own school supplies and PPE Donations will go a long way to helping these local heroes fill that need.
In districts that are not re-opening, as well as districts that experience an outbreak and are forced to move to virtual learning, school nurses will remain critical players in the public health of the community. They will have to provide virtual care for students, organize hygienic resource transfer, and communicate pandemic protocols with students’ homes.
- School nurses will need to provide virtual care to students with chronic diseases or other illnesses who relied on healthcare services through the school. As the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) explains, school nurses will still be providing skilled care virtually. In order to assist school nurses who are conducting telehealth visits, businesses can offer major discounts on laptops and audio equipment.
- School nurses also led the return of medications and other medical resources stored at schools to student homes during the previous school year. If schools close down again, nurses will likely once again take on this role. While pick-up days were arranged in many areas, some families – particularly those in poverty who rely on school healthcare resources the most – may not be able to easily drive to the school. In those cases, nurses often hand-deliver the medications rather than pay to mail them. To help, gas companies can offer fuel discounts to school nurses and teachers helping with home deliveries, similar to the BP discount for healthcare workers.
- In some districts, school nurses also lead meal delivery to students on free or reduced meal plans to alleviate food insecurity. A Denver school district estimated the cost of the program would be $100,000 – all shouldered by the schools. To help school nurses run these programs, companies can consider helping with meal costs. For example, I Hate Steven Singer, a jewelry brand, funded a meal purchase and delivery initiative for frontline workers with profits from one of their items.