182: Consulting School Nurses

Linda Mendonca, President of the National Association of School Nurses, discusses nurses needing a break, but also wanting more input regarding school health policy; Dr. Tom Simon, the Associate Director for Science in the Division of Violence...

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Linda Mendonca, President of the National Association of School Nurses, discusses nurses needing a break, but also wanting more input regarding school health policy; Dr. Tom Simon, the Associate Director for Science in the Division of Violence Prevention with the CDC, elaborates on a way forward among record increases in the firearm homicide rate with public health leading the way; and a new ASTHO blog article explains recent changes to HRSA’s Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines.

CDC Webpage: Vital Signs – Changes in Firearm Homicide and Suicide Rates

ASTHO Policy Statement: Preventing Firearm Misuse, Injury, and Death

ASTHO Blog Article: Understanding the Updated Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, May 19th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


Another school year marred by the pandemic is wrapping up. Just like students and their teachers, school nurses are looking forward to the last day of school and the opportunity to catch their breath.

Linda Mendonca is a registered nurse and the president of the National Association of School Nurses. As much as her members need a break, Mendonca says they also want more input regarding school health policy. It's our morning conversation.

How are school nurses doing as the year comes to an end?


Yeah, it's been a tough school year for sure. Starting with Delta at the end of last summer, and then moving with Omicron into January, and now there's an uptick of another new variant causing an increase in cases.

So last fall, a COVID-19 survey went out to school nurses and the respondents noted that all the conflicts over COVID-19, along with the added responsibilities, were really causing a great emotional toll and moral distress on school nurses. And they mentioned being burnt out, exhausted, no longer enjoying their work, and contemplating or actually leaving their practice of school nursing.

So with all of that, we're really hopeful for a little rest this coming summer as we learn to live with this virus and adjust to the mitigation strategies as appropriate; and that, you know, school nurses will get that little bit of reprieve and be ready to begin a new school year in the fall.


Are they getting the help and resources they need?


So, the American Rescue Plan certainly helped. However, the concern is that school administrators feel that certain mitigation strategies are not needed anymore, such as isolation rooms. When, for example, many schools had to, you know, really scurry and create spaces that they might've used for other things to make sure that there was an isolation room; and in reality, you know, we should have an isolation room all the time—not just for COVID, but for any virus or illness for students.

So, that's a little bit of a concern that people think that things are totally all over with. But PPE and testing supplies are really not as much of a concern as earlier in the pandemic. And, you know, I think just the overall impact of, you know, school nurses. Our country as a whole—you know, it is very concerning that almost half of our public schools don't have a full-time nurse. Many school nurses support more than a thousand students and more than one school building—and sometimes serving, you know, as the only school nurse for an entire district. So in rural areas, school nurses may find themselves traveling hours between buildings. So, you know, every American school child deserves a school with a full-time nurse, both to help navigate through a pandemic such as we are experiencing or just supporting students really physically and their mental health to ensure that they have that academic readiness to be successful students.


Finally, how can public health leaders help?


So moving forward, NASN really will continue to be a strong voice here in Washington, D.C. for school nurses and will work, you know, with coalition partners to ensure that there's funding, including that from, like I said, the American Rescue Plan Act.

But making sure that it's wisely invested to support students' health, safety, and readiness to learn, the school nurses need to be part of that equation in making sure that that money is spent looking at health and safety.

NASN is part of a coalition, the National Healthy Schools Collaborative. We'll be releasing a 10-year roadmap designed to coordinate and accelerate funding around policy and practice that promote healthy schools, and this roadmap offers specific recommendations to meet academic, mental, social, emotional, and physical needs of students, families, and educators.



Dr. Tom Simon has dedicated his career to preventive medicine. He's been a data analyst at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and worked on a suicide prevention hotline. Now, as a long-time expert with the CDC, he's reporting a record increase in the firearm homicide rate in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. The rate is at its highest level since 1994, but Simon says there is a way forward—a comprehensive approach with public health leading the way.


When we say a comprehensive approach, this includes the engagement of policymakers and local state and tribal governments, health, education, justice, social service agencies, as well as businesses and community organizations. And public health can really serve as a convener to facilitate this work across sectors to make sure that the local efforts are taking advantage of the best available data. Public health can serve to educate folks about the best available evidence for violence prevention.

So, there's multiple roles that public health can play. And this work really complements the work of law enforcement to make their jobs easier, to make our community safer.


Read the CDC report and an ASTHO policy statement using the link in the show notes.


Finally this morning, a new ASTHO blog article details recent changes to HRSA's women's preventive services guidelines. Updates recommend a more inclusive approach to obesity prevention, increased access to breastfeeding services, and earlier HIV screenings. You can read the article using the link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Thomas Simon PhD

Associate Director for Science, Division of Violence Prevention, CDC


President, National Association of School Nurses