A Profile on the School Nurse

Faith Webb, Podcast Team/Photographer/Reporter

She is an underground hero to many, and one who holds a good part of this school together. She is a person who is able to help students and staff. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus and the initial closing down of schools and many businesses, life has been a bit stressful. Now that school has reopened, the problem of the outbreak of coronavirus still remains. Protecting oneself and others is important when going through a time like this. That’s why we have a school nurse.

East’s school nurse, Kala Brown, is a main factor in helping keep students and staff  safe from the coronavirus. Educated at the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Brown started working at East in 2018. Now most know 2018 was a pretty good year, but oh, have times changed recently. Since becoming the school nurse, Brown does more than patch people up. Now and more than ever, Bellevue East needs her.

 Brown said that going to see the nurse used to be way simpler – last year.  In the past, it was just getting a pass and going to the nurse, getting looked at, and if needed, going home. Along with the ease of seeing the nurse back then, the office looked different as well. Well, from the outside at least. There was a time where the area in front of the nurse’s office was empty and students could mostly just walk in. Now, cordons restrict access, signs let students know they cannot enter without permission, and socially distanced chairs provide seating for students outside of the office.

 “Now if a student wants to come to the nurse, they need to tell their teacher the reasoning and the teacher will email the health office. If they have specific COVID-19 symptoms, they are directed to a room separate from the Health office to be assessed and potentially sent home,” Brown said.

Students have to follow procedures in order to be safe during the pandemic. Faith Marr, a freshman at Bellevue East, went through the new procedures. One part of the procedure is to request a pass to the nurse by using the QR code, after which the nurse or paraprofessional will send a pass, depending on the student’s needs and symptoms. Being a new student, Marr said she was a bit nervous because she hadn’t really met the nurse before.

“As I started talking to them [the nurse and paraprofessional], I felt more comfortable going to the nurse,” Marr said.

Brown and her paraprofessional Jessica Myers did the best they could to make students more comfortable. They ask a series of questions that have a yes or no answer. After the questions they can either send the student home, or address whatever issue there.

“I think they handled things very calmly,” Marr said.

The procedures are set in place to make things easy and safe for everyone. With a situation that can be nerve racking, the nurse was calm and handled the situation properly. 

Now with all the procedures, that’s not all the school nurse has to do. With being on the front lines for the illness, Brown has more work. Since the outbreak, many things have changed in almost an instant. 

“I have a lot more administrative tasks to deal with. Phone calls, emails, attendance tracking. A lot of time spent on the talking with the Director of Public Health for BPS, Mr. Bacon, and Dr. Wagner,” Brown said. 

Assessing additional information and following more extensive procedures and protocols can be challenging, which have led to students being required to go through more and different procedures just to see the nurse. With the addition of  having to talk with the Director of Public Health and the principals, Brown has her work cut out for her.

Even though the nurse has a  lot of work, Brown does not have to do it all completely alone because her paraprofessional assistant, Jessica Myers is by her side. Myers went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and Ivy Tech in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Myers started working at East in 2018 as a cafeteria worker, then transferred to ISEC as a Special Education paraprofessional. Now she works with Brown in the nurse’s office, and assists with the new procedures.

“We take everyone’s temperature before walking in the office,” Myers said.  “We need to ask certain questions for each person who comes in. We have been checking in on kids that call in sick each day. Lots of phone calls and emailing.” 

Nurses are a big part of fighting the coronavirus. Stacey Rubin of  How School Nurses Are Critical in Back-to-School Planning Amid” coronavirus said that “school nurses also serve as a vital link between the educa­tion and public health sectors.” 

I worry a lot about the health and well being of the students and staff at East, as well as my own family,” Brown said.  “This is an interesting time right now and no one has all the right answers. Policies and procedures change daily and tensions are high. Everyone needs to give and receive a lot of grace.”

With all that’s happening with the epidemic, it affects staff and students in more than just physical ways. Mental health is just as important as physical, and with all the procedures and regulations it gets frustrating. The effects of the coronavirus hurts all sides of the story, from staff to students.

 If anything, everyone needs to look out for one another and stay as safe as possible. By wearing a mask and social distancing everyone can prevent the spread of COVID 19.

 “Wear your mask. Social distance. Wash your hands. Stay home if you are not feeling well. Be a good human and protect yourself and others,” Brown said.