I was personally affected by COVID19 as both my husband and I were sick and tested positive the week of March 15, 2020. It was an intense time but we got through it—thanks to family, friends and some of my school nurse friends, some of whom I met at the school nurse orientation. They dropped off food, a pulse oximeter and offered support! My husband and I were able to stay out of the hospital and self-monitor and even auscultate our own lungs and check our own oxygen saturations. Our three children were all healthy, thank goodness. Once better, I was able to donate convalescent plasma. In those first few weeks, I organized a fund raiser and donated self-care care packages to my former nurse colleagues and former nursing students at several local hospitals.
For our school, I collaborated with my high school social worker and student assistance counselor. We led a Wellness Wednesday series for students and staff as well. In order to support the social and emotional well-being of the high school students, we provided wellness videos every week on topics such as anxiety and offered techniques such as guided relaxation and breathing exercises and they led interactive meetings with students. Our mission was to stay connected, be visible to the students and offer support. Some of the staff even commented on the helpfulness of the videos. Because the faculty was so busy teaching, I added technology to my resume and created the school wide video of all staff with their photos and messages to share with students and the community. And of course, like the rest of our school nurses, we are actively staying up to date on protocols, watching webinars, doing professional education and collaborating on our school reentry team.
Jennifer McCann, MA, RN-C
Briarcliff High School Nurse
Westchester County, Zone 4
A recent submission of “Good News” comes from Kristy M. Vitarelli , R.N., a Public Health Nurse from Flushing N.Y.:
The past couple of weeks I have been working with a colleague, Christina Weber, to follow up on students and their families who have medication administration forms on file. During one of our calls we spoke to a parent who was struggling. While speaking to the mother of our student we discovered that the parent has little to no internet service to aid in remote learning for her child, even though they recently received a school issued iPad. Mom was too scared to leave the house with her children out of fear of getting sick, and these issues with leaving home made her fearful even to shop for food. Mom confided in us that she had not been able to work in over five weeks and stated she was sharing food with her children. Occasionally her sister would come over to bring food when she could.
Together as a team we collaborated with our supervisor Angela Burke, Nurse Maria Migliorati, Nurse Diane Barbarito and newly retired Nurse Pat Hartman to help this family in need. Pat Hartman is the leader of Girl Scout Troop 4760 and her grandchild is a Girl Scout member. They managed to have this family ‘adopted’ so to say by the Girl Scout troop. Food and supplies were delivered to the house over the weekend by Pat Hartman and members of the Girl Scout troop. In addition, masks are being made and delivered by the children and Nurse Diane Barbarito. We will continue to follow up with this family over the weeks to come.
This story as well as so many others shows that humanity will prevail during times of crisis. I hope it inspires all of us to continue working together, pooling all resources, and making a difference in our communities during these difficult times.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest accomplishment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
– Leo Buscaglia.
Meet Catherine Rodriguez RN, MSN, CSN and School Nurse in Zone 4’s Bronxville CSD.
Since her school district closed due to the pandemic, she has actively sought out opportunities to volunteer her skills and time to organizations in need. Catherine quickly reached out to the Department of Health and was assigned to White Plains YWCA where one day a week she works at their day care facility for children of first responders, assessing all persons entering the site. Catherine also responded to a volunteer opportunity posted on the NYSNA website, for the non-profit organization Afya. Their mission it is to help address critical shortages of medical supplies in underserved communities around the world through collection and distribution of donated items. During the COVID pandemic, however, they have changed focus and Catherine has been involved in packaging of donated PPE for distribution to hospitals and healthcare sites in the NY area. She has also been volunteering her time at St John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, working in the Employee Health department where she provides an array of services such as performing swabs for COVID-19, reporting on antibody tests, checking vital signs, performing vision screens, fit testing staff for N95 masks and running to and from central supply for PPE and COVID testing kits.
Way to go, Catherine! You make Zone 4 and all your NYSASN colleagues proud!
School nurses in the Connetquot S.D. created this inspiring video for their students and staff:
A personal story with YouTube link from Holly Giovi, RN, a school nurse from the Deer Park Union Free School District on LI:
I was already recruited by the time the (health care volunteer) surveys came out, and honestly it somewhat frightened me to be volunteering in what seemed to be, at the time, a possible medical draft. But I was lucky enough to be recruited through executive search and placed at the Jones Beach testing site.
I think nurses naturally feel an overwhelming sense of wanting to help and, although I have been a nurse for 26 years, my years of bedside nursing are very far removed from recent times and my ICU/ ER days were over 20 years ago. So with that being my experience I knew I would not feel confident going back to bedside direct nursing care. I felt the testing sites run by DOH in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, National Guard, military reserves, parks department, NY fire safety, sheriff’s department, and several other entities was a great fit to scratch that itch and felt like I was doing a small part within my current skill set to move us all closer to a new normal.
I wanted my students and staff to know I was being trained and supported by the state’s leading epidemiologist and medical directors so that I could be a resource of information for anyone that might need accurate science based information and not be confused by social media jargon. I have worked since the third day after school closures and put in 12-hour shifts with most weeks hitting overtime hours. In one week, I worked 70 hours. The days are broken up into two- and three-hour tours, with the nurse working every other tour. The site averages 800 appointments per day. We work in teams of two with a hot and a warm nurse. Earlier in the testing it had been three on a team. It is really like inventing a wheel since an operation like this has never existed before. We also have ongoing quality control nurses, and nurse educators. I have served in all roles. We have all been fit tested for N95 masks and have plenty of PPE, I feel extremely safe.
I have stayed connected to my school staff by participating in Zoom calls and made a quick video for students and staff thinking maybe I would host a virtual field trip. However, I wanted to balance knowledge without creating fear. I’ve included the link below, it is a quick tour of the compound as it started out several weeks ago, but has greatly grown since.
I would suggest anyone looking to participate with a similar opportunity to reach out to an Execu-search agency and join the Long Island Nurses Facebook page as there are frequent job listings found there. Of course you can also reach out to me directly and I will help any way possible. I wish you all the best of health & calm until we can be together again.
Warm regards, Holly Giovi
Link to tour: https://youtu.be/GcikLN-V0sg
Uplifting YouTube video from Valley Central S.D. in Orange County, New York:
Words of Encouragement from Lakeland Central S.D in Westchester: https://www.facebook.com/272135219517726/posts/3031869126877641/?d=n
From an anonymous New York City School Nurse:
I am working in a Regional Enrichment Center (REC) it is opened from 7:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Monday – Friday for children of essential workers. Sites are located in all five boroughs and there are teachers, paras etc. Children get three meals a day and get help with school work, exercise, etc. They originally opened 123 sites but have been consolidating them. Also in the city they have “grab and go” breakfast and lunch, again in all five boroughs, at different schools.
- Some school nurses are working at the REC.
- Some are at testing sites.
- Some are in nursing homes.
- Some are working hotlines.
- Some school nurses are calling students with chronic diseases, especially persistent asthma students who get controller meds, to see if the parent has the medication and if they are giving it, need a refill etc.
- Some nurses might have gone back to the hospital but only if they volunteered, and recently worked at the hospital. Nobody has been forced to the front lines.
I do believe we will be more involved when they attempt to re-open the city, although I don’t know in what capacity.
NYSASN President-Elect Jackie O’Donnell shared this video, made by all the school nurses at William Floyd SD on Long Island, that went out to district staff and students. You can view it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oaV3U93ioQ. Jackie also reports that as of mid-April 150,000 meals have been delivered to families in need within her district!