(AUDIO) Missouri school nurses take on another year with coronavirus around

by | Aug 25, 2021 | Education, Health / Medicine, News, Show Me Today

Missouri school nurses are heading into a second academic year of trying to stop the coronavirus at the school doors. The state has about 1600 school nurses among Missouri’s more than 500 K-12 public school districts – not every school or district has a school nurse on staff.

Teri Hansen, the president of the Missouri Association of School Nurses, tells Missourinet many school nurses are ready for life to get back to normal again.

“The end of last school year, we kind of took a deep breath and were thinking we were coming to the end of this pandemic. And then this summer, it decided to rear its ugly head again. Things have really kind of escalated, especially here in Missouri. So as school nurses, many were really burnt out last year. They had many long hours,” says Hansen. “I think everybody is a little anxious on what is going to happen this fall and how bad the covid with the delta variant is going to be. Whether you are in a district of 700 students K-12 or whether you are in a district of 30,000 students K-12. You are still charged with trying to keep these kids safe while they are at school. So, that puts a lot of stress for our school nurses coming back in the midst of covid.”

They have spent countless hours collaborating with public health agencies and healthcare experts about the virus. Local leaders decide what virus health precautions are taken in their communities. Some have required masks in schools and others have not.

The National Association of State Boards of Education has issued a policy statement promoting school nurses as leaders in reopening schools.

“I do believe that it turns a spotlight on how important school nurses are. Administration now realizes that they need to be turning to their school nurses because they are the health care experts in their buildings,” she says.

Education leaders have talked about the benefits of having students in school, including for their cognitive development, social and emotional needs, nutrition, among other things.

Hansen says the association supports the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) position stating it does support universal masking. The NASN’s stance comes from a masking recommendation made by the American Association of Pediatrics.

“We are going to do whatever it takes to keep these students in school,” says Hansen.

Have school nurses been getting pushback from the community over the health measures taken in schools?

“As far as like mask mandates and stuff, the nurses usually don’t get tons of pushback – at least not that I have observed on that. We may have parents complaining about it, but we don’t get a lot of pushback on that. Where we get more pushback is when we are the ones making those calls saying, ‘Your student can’t come to school for 14 days because they have been exposed to someone. Your student has to be in isolation for ten days because they are positive. So they should not be around anybody, including family members in the home, as much as possible to prevent spread.’ Then we’re messing with someone’s family. They’re going to be protective of their family – they want their kids in school,” she says. “I do understand that. It is hard to make those calls because we know we want kids in school. That’s the whole goal of having a school nurse is that we keep kids healthy to keep them in school. This last year, we have had to do just the opposite.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit, to push back on the state’s K-12 public schools who have required students and staff to wear masks. Schmitt, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate, says parents should have the final say in whether their child should wear a mask in school.

To listen to an interview with Teri Hansen, on Missourinet’s Show Me Today, click below.

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