MUSCATINE, Iowa–As a nurse for Muscatine Community School District and a member of their Return to Learn Committee, Wendy Donald devoted much of her spring to learning about addressing COVID-19 when returning to school in the fall. As Donald acquired useful information from attending webinars and from reading documents published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health, she began compiling a single document for herself to make sense of it all. “I provided a comprehensive outline that consisted of “pillars” of concern when looking at reopening schools and strategies or ideas that could be used to address those concerns,” she explained. As Donald put it, a pillar concern represents a challenge a school faces in returning to school, such as how to use the school’s medical office to treat ill children and those with simple day to day concerns at the same time.
As Donald worked on the document, she shared it with fellow members of the National Association of School Nurses, hoping nurses at other schools could benefit from the information she gathered. One of the first documents of its kind circulated, many school districts across the country took note of it and began incorporating it into their own plans to return to in person classes. “I had well over 100 nurses nationally reach out to me as well as Iowa school nurses,” said Donald. “It was humbling.”
With more and more nurses turning to Donald’s outline for guidance, a consultant from Maryland reached out to her, interested in using her work in their state’s guidance for schools. “What I did not expect was the State School Nurse Consultant of Maryland to personally communicate with me about the use of my document in the Maryland Return to Learn Plan,” shared Donald. “When I realized that my entire document was actually printed and used within their template, I was thrilled.” Donald’s work did indeed figure in to their plan, and appears in full in Appendix D.
Donald feels amazed by how popular her outline has grown and how much positive feedback she received. “This has been an awesome experience for me–I did not imagine that I would receive so many responses,” she enthused. So many different school districts have benefited from her document that others have encouraged her to serve on the National Association of School Nurses’ board when a position opens up in 2021. Though she has not decided whether or not to pursue this option, she values that people have recommended her for the position. Donald continues to work with the Return to Learn Committee in Muscatine to put effective procedures in place for the coming school year.