By Robin Cogan and Eileen Gavin
New Jersey certified school nurses are working throughout the state to keep our students safe, healthy and ready to learn from our virtual health offices. Our buildings may be closed, but we are actively working for our individual school districts by collaborating, cooperating, and consulting with our school staff, parents, and community partners as we navigate this unprecedented pandemic. As certified nurse educators, many of us are using online platforms to connect with students, staff, and administration. During this public health emergency many feel like virtual pioneers as they create online classrooms to provide health education lessons about hand-washing and social distancing. School nurses are staying connected through applications such as Zoom and other video conferencing events to hold virtual meetings so that the business of education in New Jersey continues to the best of our ability.
This pandemic shines a spotlight on the work of school nurses as the public health experts in our school communities. We are working with the local health departments, squashing rumors, calming anxiety, and offering credible health resources and information. We survey our communities for infectious diseases, initiate contact investigations for those with signs of illness, and refer those who are symptomatic for medical evaluation. After school hours, many school nurses are volunteering to test individuals for COVID-19, answer hotlines, and providing case management for those with signs of COVID-19 through our local health departments.
School nurses are addressing food insecurities by overseeing food distribution to those that need assistance. We are coordinating home delivery by working with community partners such as Backpack Crew and local food banks for families most in need of additional goods and services.
School nurses are flexible, one of the hallmarks of being a nurse. We are innovative in a crisis situation and learn each day what is working. We may be “Virtual School Nurses,” but we are staying connected and responsive to the needs of our school communities.
Finally, rest assured that when teachers, staff, and students return to school, your school nurses will be part of the re-entry planning to ensure that everyone remains as healthy and safe as possible in the non-virtual educational world. Stay at home, adhere to social distancing recommendations, and we will move beyond this public health emergency with everyone’s participation.
Stay in touch with your school nurses!
Learn more about the work that New Jersey’s certified school nurses do – and the essential role they play in their students’ lives. Watch NJEA’s Pride commercials on school nurses.
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.
Eileen Gavin, MSN, FNP-BC, NCSN is a nationally certified school nurse and co-lead nurse in the Middletown Township School District of Monmouth County, New Jersey. Her educational background includes a Bachelors of Nursing (BSN), a Masters of School Nursing (MSN), and a Post-Masters Certificate in Advance Practice from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She is nationally board certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a Family Nurse Practitioner and the National Board for Certification of School Nurses. In 2013, Eileen became an alumnus of the Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Institute and has served as a mentor /liaison and community coach with the program for several years. Eileen’s clinical experience includes family practice, urgent care, preventive medicine, disease management, emergency medicine and pediatric primary care. Eileen’s interests include health promotion and policies, emergency medicine, pediatric health care across the lifespan, and addressing healthcare disparities. Most recently, Eileen’s professional focuses have been the increasing opioid epidemic in New Jersey’s communities by serving as an active member of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Opioid Task Force Committee and decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illness as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Currently, she has been appointed as Co-Chair of the Legislative committee of the New Jersey State School Nurses Association executive board and serves as a member of the Brain Alliance of New Jersey’s Concussion in Youth Sports Steering Committee. Eileen has been recognized as an accomplished mentor and educator through multiple awards on the local, state and national level