School nurses expect a heavier load with COVID-19

Posted at 10:26 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 23:50:19-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — As students try to safely return back to school, some school nurses say there just isn’t enough of them to go around. The Tennessee Association of School Nurses tells say this pandemic may just add more work and pressure to school nurses who are already stretched too thin.

Janet Thornton sits on the board for the National Association of school nurses representing Tennessee. She says, there has always been a school nurse shortage.

She says the southeastern part of the country has about 60 full-time school nurses.

Metro Nashville Public Schools employs 69 nurses for its 135 schools. A district spokesperson says the district is looking to hire eight more nurses during the pandemic.

"We have about 14 in half percent part-time school nurses and we have almost 25% of our school district in the southeastern part of the country with no school nurse at all," said Thornton.

Thornton says nurses already have to be responsible for their chronically ill student patients, vaccine records and so much more.

In the middle of a pandemic though, Thornton says many will now have a heavier load in keeping up with students and staff symptoms when it comes to COVID-19.

"It is a very heavy workload and my concern is we’re going to see nurse burnout, some compassion fatigue."

There’s also the fear of getting the virus and lack of personal protective equipment.

It's not just school nurses who have concerns, Thornton says there’s a problem of what to do with the school nurse gets sick.

"The other concern is if the nurse becomes ill who comes in for that nurse, Do we have enough substitute nurses to come in and pick up on the school nurse has to be self-quarantined for 14 days," she said.

Thornton says school nurses in Tennessee have already handled several phone calls from worried parents, she asking that people show nurses some grace during these difficult times.