During the pandemic, everyone has found themselves facing some kind of change. For Walpole High School nurse Rachel Jackson, everything about her job this year has changed, from her uniform to her responsibilities. In her previous years working at the school, Nurse Jackson spent her days tending to students with all sorts of injuries and illnesses. Now, in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19, students are only allowed to visit the nurse’s offices under limited conditions.
“We used to have tons of kids coming in for everything from a hangnail to a cut on the head, but right now, it really has to be either cold-like symptoms or something pretty significant,” said Jackson. “We went from seeing anywhere from 30 to 60 kids a day to seeing, maybe five to 10 tops.”
Jackson’s main responsibilities now involve contact tracing. She, along with the seven other nurses in the district, run the contact tracing program for the schools. When a student tests positive, the nurse from that school traces the student’s classes, after school activities and extracurriculars. Then, they notify anyone who came into close contact with the positive individual, and that person and their close contacts must quarantine.
“I think my biggest challenge is that when I walk out of here, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything positive because I’m always doom and gloom. I’m calling parents to tell them their kid is a close contact. I always feel like I’m delivering bad news and nobody likes to hear from me. I just always feel like, yeah, we’ve done our job and we’ve done a good job, but you just don’t see the positives,” said Jackson.
After school hours, such as during weekends or school vacations, one of the eight nurses is on-call. Whenever a new positive case comes in, the on-call nurse is supposed to deal with the contact tracing process, regardless of which school the student may be from. However, Jackson says the nurses usually respond to the cases from their school anyway to make the process more efficient. This means that the nurses are almost constantly working and have no time off.
“Yes we are supposed to be off, but the way I look at it is if I deal with it then and get it done the way that it should be done, then I don’t have to deal with it on Monday. In the long term, it will also help reduce the spread.”
Despite the difficulty of her position, Jackson is still able to maintain a positive, optimistic outlook. She is grateful for how well students, teachers and everyone in the school community have responded and adjusted to all the new protocols.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how well everyone has adapted to what our new normal is. The students have been rock stars. I can’t say enough [about] how well everyone has done with following the hallways, leaving the masks on and keeping their distance in school,” Jackson said.
Without the hard work of nurses like Jackson, Walpole High would certainly not be able to run efficiently. It is important to thank our nurses, especially for all that they have done to ensure our safety throughout the pandemic. For Jackson, who misses being able to see students, something as simple as saying hello or waving could go a long way.