School nurses rise to the challenge

Teachers and staff across Lincoln Public Schools have found themselves taking on new and challenging roles during this pandemic - “other duties as assigned,” as a job description would say.

That certainly is true for school nurses. 

“We are on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Ashley DeBrie, school nurse at Lux Middle School.

For one thing, she and other school nurses have been called upon to become experts in contact tracing. When a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, school nurses spring into action. They confirm the positive test, either through a person’s healthcare provider or the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, and they work with their building’s administrators to make sure safety protocols were followed. 

Then contact tracing begins. They identify any close contacts the staff member or student may have had and make sure those individuals are now out of the building and quarantining.  

“School nurses are public health experts so that part of our job has really been highlighted this year,” said Wendy Rau, LPS supervisor of health services, who added, “Our health services staff have been champions. They have accepted the challenge and rolled with it.” 

School nurses still have the same responsibilities they did pre-pandemic - for example, assembling individual health plans, administering medication and conducting health screenings - but DeBrie said there are some days now when she is mostly dealing with COVID-related issues.

“I’ve always been proud to be a school nurse but this year when we’re learning something totally new, in an unprecedented time, makes me even more proud to be a school nurse and hopefully be part of the solution to this,” she said. 

That being said, she and other school nurses look forward to the future when they don’t have days that are filled with such unprecedented “other duties as assigned.”

“School nurses are givers - pandemic or no pandemic. That’s why we took this job, that’s why we’re here,” DeBrie said. “But we definitely look forward to the day when it’s more about nurse-student interactions.”

Published: January 13, 2021, Updated: January 13, 2021