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School nurses overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases in schools continue to increase

In the past two years, school nurses have put in additional hours just to deal with COVID-19 pandemic-related tasks.

YORK, Pa. — “I probably couldn’t speak to a school nurse that doesn’t say this year is far more challenging in the aspect of trying to manage just the tasks of our daily operation in the health room," said Jeanette Slimmer, a school nurse for the Gettysburg Area School District

School Nurses had their hands full even before the pandemic. 

“We saw kids for minor illnesses, injuries, routine medications, we conducted mandated screening, examinations," said Slimmer.

“We coordinate health services for the students, we contact physicians, we talk with parents," said Victoria Skiles, a school nurse for the Lancaster School District.

A nursing shortage hit many school districts before Covid-19. Some schools only have one nurse per building and can be responsible for up to 1,000 students. 

“If a nurse would get exposed or a nurse would become sick, there is possibly no nurse in a school building," said Slimmer.

The pandemic has added an additional set of duties for these already busy nurses.  In the past two years, school nurses have put in additional hours just to deal with pandemic related tasks.

“So much more time is now spent managing a case of Covid-19, identifying the family, identifying the case, identifying the close contact," said Slimmer.

And those challenges continue to grow as they see more sick students.

“We’re seeing sick students and differentiating right now between allergies, cold & flu and Covid-19 is a challenge," said Slimmer.

“They all kind of stem together and we don’t want to over quarantine students but we do want to make sure that those who have possibly Covid-19 symptoms are quarantined," said Skiles

School nurses also say they are also dealing with easily frustrated parents and staff members when they don’t agree with how a student situation is being handled. 

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