Return to Headlines

Check up on nurses

A school nurse looks in the ear of an elementary-aged childSnohomish students have returned to learning on campus, but the pandemic is not over. School nurses are on the front lines of keeping students healthy and safe.

“This is one of the most challenging situations of my professional career,” said Kris Pieper, MSN, RN, Snohomish High School nurse. “There are many more pieces to this puzzle than what a school nurse normally does.”

Pieper is one of more than a dozen school nurses across the Snohomish School District. The school nurse is charged with navigating the evolving COVID-19 safety rules for those exposed to COVID-19 and those testing positive for the virus. There is a nurse dedicated to each school in the district.

For a school system the size of Snohomish, the state pays for just 1.4 nurses. The remaining nurses are funded from local property taxes through the Educational Programs and Operations Levy. The current levy expires next year.

Pieper added that the pandemic has raised the bar on many of the typical sniffles, a cough, or upset stomach that most children feel from time to time. If a student or staff member shows symptoms while at school, they will be isolated until they can go home. An ill student is likely to be asked to wait in a dedicated room where they are not near others until a parent/guardian arrives to take them home.

For school nurses much of their day is filled helping students with COVID-19 symptoms, compiling virus test results and tracing student contacts. In between these tasks nurses work closely with families answering questions and helping with health concerns.

“There are so many unknowns and unknowns can be scary,” said Chrissy Hawkins, BSN, RN, Cascade View Elementary nurse. She and Pieper said students seem to be knowledgeable of COVID-19 precautions and accepting of the need to quarantine when exposed or feeling symptoms. Anyone with symptoms is encouraged to get tested. Those with negative results may miss less class time.

In addition to COVID-19, the school nurse is also responsible for many more health and medical issues within the school. School nurses respond to the usual playground bumps and bruises, write student care plans for those with health conditions that might interfere with learning, administer daily medications that those conditions might require and support medically fragile students to ensure they can fully access their education.

“Our students, staff and families do a good job of taking care of each other and taking care of themselves,” Hawkins said. “We are part of a wonderful community.”