Northeast Ohio school nurses face more responsibilities, expanded roles during COVID-19 pandemic

Northeast Ohio school nurses face more responsibilities, expanded roles during COVID-19 pandemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -Like everyone else who works in education, school nurses' roles are changing this school year and the need is greater than ever.

“There has been an abundance of requests for additional school staff this year,” said Meredith Sitko, with PSI Solutions, which places and manages school nurses and health professionals.

Sitko says many schools are doubling their school health staff, to man the additional COVID responsibilities and spaces created for those showing symptoms, separate from traditional school clinics.

But recruiting hasn’t been easy, with schedules in flux, and a potential or looming shut down.

Sitko says some established school nurses have decided not to return out of concern overexposure.

“The governor has tasked all school health staff with vigilant assessment. That vigilant assessment means symptom management at school,” she said.

The additional responsibilities for some school nurses this school year include:

  • Checking temperatures
  • Serving as resource for new policies
  • Communicating with local health department
  • Contact tracing
  • Training staff on guidance and the latest information
  • Managing two spaces (“well” clinic and COVID-19 symptoms clinic)

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Just like classrooms, the clinic itself may have to be moved and is going to look a whole lot different.

"Often times clinics are located right inside the central office. That’s kind of ‘command central’, a lot of people coming in and out and that’s not ideal when we’re looking at the situation that we’re looking at this year. We’re looking at spaces for school clinics that have good air ventilation, whether that’s through HVAC system or just good air flow that has windows. Not all school clinics prior to this had a window in it,” Sitko said.

In previous years, Sitko said the goal has always been to keep kids in school.

“That is acutely different this year. Anybody that is not feeling well truly should not be at school and it takes somebody, a team really, to manage that,” she said.

The waiting or sick areas that are being created for those with symptoms in some schools will be furnished with minimal hard surfaces so they can be cleaned easily, leaving room for distancing.

Sitko asks that parents be patient and understanding, familiarize themselves with school policies on returning if kids have been sent home, and keep them home if they’re not feeling well.

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