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School nurse Robin Cogan with some of her students before COVID-19 closed schools.

An open letter from school nurse Robin Cogan to parents & caregivers

Dear Parents/Caregivers:

These are certainly challenging times filled with uncertainty and concern that are impacting our entire community, and our country. The next few weeks will determine if we have had success in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It has taken a complete disruption in the rhythm and flow of our normal schedules to change outcomes. We will get back to work and school, but for now, we have to face the unknown with assurance that we can work through these challenging times. 

This feels more like a marathon, but one where we do not know how many miles we have left to run. That adds to a sense of general anxiety because we do not know the end game right now. Patience may be wearing thin, so we have to be sure that we are all managing our own expectations. 

Your kids will not be learning at the same pace or intensity as a typical school day. The goal is to have meaningful chunks of learning per day. All of us are anxious as we adjust to this new reality, so take any opportunity to relax and laugh together, too. Routines can be comforting for everyone. In some cases, schools will have an  education plan during this closure. Use their instructions as a guide for setting up your family’s schedule. Be sure to include the kids in crafting a schedule and remember to keep it flexible. 

When we do reflect on what is happening, remember to remain calm and reassuring. Our children will react to both what we say and how we say it. We have to be the role models for our kids in terms of following recommended guidelines for how to manage COVID-19. Children are intensely watching our actions even more than our words. Credible sources like the Center for Disease Control provide the best guide for helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information can lead to anxiety because it becomes overwhelming. Provide information that is honest, accurate, and age appropriate.  

Here is some much needed humor from my friend and colleague, Jasmine Wood,  a Virginia school nurse who posted this message on Twitter!

Take good care, be well, we are in this together!

Signed your school nurse <3

Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 19th year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. She serves on several national boards including The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a gun violence prevention research non-profit organization and the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN). Robin is the Legislative Chair for the New Jersey State School Nurses Association (NJSSNA). She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor. She has been recognized in her home state of New Jersey and nationally for her community-based initiative called “The Community Café: A Conversation That Matters.” Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include 2019 National Association of School Nurses (NASN) President’s Award; 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year; 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year; and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty. Robin writes a blog called The Relentless School Nurse. You can also follow her on Twitter at @RobinCogan.