School nurses trained by state and local health officials to identify COVID-19 among students

Keeping Schools Safe

KINGSPORT/BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — One by one, schools are reopening for in-person learning and school nurses are now on the front lines of the pandemic.

Trained by the state and local health departments, school nurses in the Tri-Cities are following new protocols in identifying COVID-19 symptoms and how to respond.

A school nurse at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, in Kingsport, is performing an artificial triage on a student.

Ahead of the school year, school nurses underwent extensive training to be able to understand how to provide help for their students while in the middle of a pandemic.

“To handle COVID symptoms. We’ve trained staff around that, and then to report issues surrounding COVID,” Bristol, Tennessee City Schools Supervisor of Student Services Jennifer Rouse said.

Bristol, Tennessee City Schools has one nurse in each school, except for Tennessee High School which has two. The same goes for Kingsport City Schools.

“We’ve made a separate isolation room in our area. The PPE that we have to wear is much different,” Lincoln Elementary School registered nurse Brandy Collins said.

The Tennessee Department of Health and the Sullivan County Health Department asked the school nurses to wear PPE when checking students for COVID-19 symptoms.

“It’s more due to the fact that a lot of our isolation rooms are inside of our clinic rooms. So, we are having to do gown and gloves, N-95 masks, the goggles and the face shield,” Collins said.

As flu season draws closer, Collins said nurses will be required to wear full PPE at all times.

“If cases were to rise, or continue to increase, we’ll be sending a lot of kids home because with COVID, the symptoms are basically the same symptoms that you see with pretty much any illness,” Collins said.

Students with other needs will be treated at the door.

“We’ve had to separate our well kids from our illness kids. It’s got to be two or three separate times, so we’ve got a wellness time and a sick time,” Collins said.

Elizabethton City Schools nurses are also trained to immediately send home students if they show any type of symptoms.

“The symptoms are that we would look for every year when COVID was not even around, like congestion, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches,” Elizabethton City Schools nursing supervisor Teresa Robinson said. “But now those symptoms have become part of the COVID screening.”

Both school systems said substitute nurses are needed, now more than ever. Those with credentials are asked to apply on the school system’s website.

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