School nurses implement new practices to keep students safe

School nurses across Muscatine Community School District have prepared themselves and their health offices to welcome students back safely this year.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–As Muscatine Community School District prepared to return to school this year, nurses throughout the district had more to think about than ever before. Along with making their usual beginning of the year preparations, they had to determine the best way to handle potential cases of COVID-19. After months of preparations, MCSD’s nurses helped welcome students back with a variety of practices designed to help keep them safe.

Wendy Donald, the nurse for Susan Clark Junior High School, shared several of the steps she and her colleagues will take this year to help keep students healthy. Over the course of the summer, Donald extensively researched best practices for keeping students healthy during a pandemic, and her extensive, well organized notes received positive feedback from the National Association of School Nurses and other states and school districts crafting their own return to learn plans.

Donald also worked closely with Jolynn Herr of Trinity Muscatine Public Health as well as with nurses from West Liberty and Wilton Community School Districts. Via weekly virtual meetings, the group worked through common concerns together. “There was a lot of sharing resources so we didn’t have to feel like we were reinventing the wheel every step of the way,” Donald shared.

Through all this research and work, Donald, other MCSD nurses, and Corry Spies, principal of Franklin Elementary and the administrator who oversees nurses, created a set of plans for each school’s health office to use. As with all infectious diseases, preventing the spread represents the most important way to keep people well. To try to stop students from giving COVID-19 to each other, Donald stressed parents should keep their children home if they exhibit any respiratory or gastrointestinal (stomach flu-like) symptoms. Additionally, each school will provide students with age appropriate information about stopping the spread of disease, including how to properly wash hands, wear cloth face masks, and socially distance throughout the school day.

Even so, all of the nurses know they must prepare for if a child begins showing COVID-19 symptoms at school. In anticipation of this possibility, each school has set up separate areas for students who feel ill and for students who need to see the nurse for minor injuries, daily prescription medications, or other routine visits. To further reduce the chances of spreading disease, nurses will ask parents to come and pick up sick children as quickly as possible.

Each nurse will also have personal protective equipment to use when working with possible cases of COVID-19, including masks, face shields, isolation gowns, gloves, and fit tested N-95 masks. “We are very grateful for this collaboration–UnityPoint Hospital and Public Health have been very supportive of us and recognize we are in the front lines since schools have resumed,” stated Donald.

As families familiarize themselves with the new procedures schools will follow this year, Donald and Spies encourage them to read through the district’s Return to Learn Plan. Parents may also call the nurse or principal of their child’s school with more specific questions.