Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

School nurses: What the job is like post-pandemic

A child steps onto a school bus.
Chloe Nouvelle
A child steps onto a school bus.

The role of school nurses has changed over the past few years.

Those in the profession went from communicating with parents about basic health needs for students to being at the center of a potentially dangerous pandemic.

“We didn't know what to do, but the nurses stuck together, said Kelly Keegan, a certified school nurse and Easton Area School District nurse coordinator. "We helped each other through it.

“We made sure that we were keeping up to date with all the Global Health entity mitigation plans recommendations. We would scour the websites and the Department of Health's, Department of Education making sure that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing.”

Survey finds exhaustion, PTSD

In a 2022 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, many school nurses said they felt exhausted, stressed and burned out two years into the coronavirus pandemic.

That survey found nearly 45% of school nurses surveyed reported signs of negative mental health conditions in the two weeks prior to the survey, with 30% of those surveyed displaying symptoms of PTSD, 24% experiencing moderate to severe depression, 22% experiencing anxiety and 4% experiencing suicidal ideation.

Keegan said it has been tough on her staff, with people leaving the business because of the pandemic’s impact.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Do you like science, health and tech stories? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you Pittsburgh's top news, every weekday morning.

“Two school certified school nurses did retire," she said. "They just said, 'I'm done. I just can't do this anymore.' But the rest of us, we just helped each other through it.”

Keegan said she has seen improvement, though.

She said the job of school nurses is getting back to normal, but they still are overwhelmed with work that didn’t get done in the past three years.

“We got through it and now we're over that and we're catching up because a lot of those students weren't able to go to the dentist, they weren't able to get their physical, they weren't able to get vaccines and so we're playing catch up now,” she said.

Students feeling effects, too

Keegan said Easton Area School District works with community partners to make sure students are up to date on their physicals, vaccines and dental visits, regardless of insurance status.

She added that many of the students are still feeling the effects of the past few years and some are still masking.

She said the nurses try to keep open communication with parents to help kids work through what they are going through.

Keegan said parents should use their school nurse as a resource to help keep their child safe and healthy.