Assistant to Head of High School Valerie Velo takes the temperature of sophomore Samrath Pannu on the morning of March 30. (Photo by Arikta Trivedi)

Country Day to hire part-time nurse for COVID-19 management

Country Day is trying to hire a part-time school nurse for the first time since its founding in 1964.

The idea had been discussed by the administration in the past, but COVID-19 made it a reality.

 School administrators had many medical questions, so they decided to hire a nurse to guide them through the process, said Head of School Lee Thomsen

“Most importantly, this person would help us coordinate our COVID-19 responses, policies and procedures,” he said.

The nurse will move into former Assistant to the Head of School Tucker Foehl’s office next to the Academic Resources Center.

Shortly after this decision was made, a job advertisement was sent out in a Jan. 22 school-wide email as well as put on the school website. The ad included the job description, responsibilities and requirements.

The advertisement says the nurse will also serve on the COVID Steering Committee.

President of the National Association of School Nurses Laurie Comb, a retired nurse with over 46 years of experience, said school nurses typically have two big responsibilities on campus: tending to individual students’ health and responding to medical emergencies. 

“The nurse would inject insulin shots to students with diabetes and provide inhalers for students with asthma,” Combe said.

They would also train teachers how to administer medicine to students with health issues.

The nurse will also be responsible for any major health emergency during school hours. This used to be the job of Director of Physical Education Michelle Myers in the 1980s-1990s.

Myers received a degree in Sports Medicine from Sacramento State, qualifying her to deal with these situations.

Myers said it’s usually the supervising teacher’s job to handle the medical issue at hand, but if they aren’t comfortable, they should call emergency services.

“Every teacher on campus is CPR and first aid certified,” she said. “However, I was called in once this year to handle an injury.”

Two students’ heads collided at recess, and Myers was called in to evaluate for concussion.

Myers has been working since 1986 and is planning to retire in a few years, so she thinks a school nurse would be a great idea.

The nurse will also tend to minor health emergencies, a job currently belonging to receptionist Erica Wilson. 

Wilson evaluates students and gives band-aids, ibuprofen or ice packs to students who need them.

She is also in charge of contacting parents and/or emergency services when needed. 

Combe said COVID-19 has brought another responsibility for some school nurses: contact tracing in the event of a COVID exposure.

Contact tracers quickly locate and talk with the patients, assist in arranging for patients to isolate themselves and work with patients to identify people with whom they have been in close contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Checking the ever-widening potential contacts for symptomatology is crucial,” Combe said. 

To be eligible for the Country Day position, applicants must be either a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse. First aid and CPR certification also are  required. 

Combe described three ways to become an RN: complete a 3-year diploma program through a hospital, earn a 2-year associate’s degree in nursing or a 4-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. 

These will all make a person eligible to take the RN licensing exam. 

To be an LPN, one must complete a skill-oriented nursing program to learn about anatomy, physiology and medicine (12-18 months). 

Country Day also requires a minimum of two years’ professional nursing experience, preferably in a school or pediatric setting.

Although it’s not required, the NASN recommends that all school nurses have a bachelor’s degree. 

Combe explained that a bachelor’s degree includes coursework on community health nursing, something diploma and associate’s degree programs don’t offer. 

It details concepts such as taking care of and understanding the population of schools. 

“The course teaches nursing students that many public health concepts focus on wellness models rather than illness models,” Combe said.

She also said moving into school nursing is a big adjustment to what nurses are used to. Hospitals and physician’s offices are completely different professional domains than schools. 

“You need to understand the language and laws of medicine, but you also need to understand the language and laws of education,” she said.

— By Rod Azghadi

Originally published in the April 13 edition of the Octagon.

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