School nurses share experience during pandemic

Lydia Urice
Podcast Editor

Clinic assistant nurse Natalie Mertens poses for a picture in the clinic. Mertens’ started working at the high school last year. “I’m so glad that there were two of us working on it together. I think it would have been a lot for one person, and it’s always good to have a team,” Mertens said. Photo by Addie Palmquist

“The general thought is that you get a pandemic every hundred or so years, which makes sense because the Spanish flu was back in 1918, so sure maybe we were doomed for another pandemic,” lead nurse Rachel Huertas said.

School nurses Rachel Huertas and Natalie Mertens’ jobs didn’t go on pause when classes went online. They were preparing for when students did come back.

“You would think, ‘Oh, there weren’t students in the building. What the heck were the nurses doing?’ Right but oh no we were busy getting ready,” Huertas said.

“A lot of it was getting prepared to have all of you guys back in the building,” Huertas said.

“We were working. I’m so glad that there were two of us working on it together. I think it would have been a lot for one person, and it’s always good to have a team,” clinic assistant nurse Natalie Mertens said.

“There was a lot of preparation that was going on. There was a lot of education and professional development going on for all of the school nurses. There have been tons of webinars that we have attended that have everything to do with COVID and kids related stuff,” Huertas said.

“I remember right before we went out for spring break last year, talking with one of the other nurses, and we were both saying, “Do you think maybe we won’t come back? This is kinda crazy; this is getting weirder and weirder by the day. I wonder if we won’t come back,’ and it was such a strange thing to even think. Not come back? School is the one thing that’s never taken away from anybody right?” Huertas said. “I never ever pictured a situation like this,”

“We don’t actually see as many students in the clinic on a daily basis as we did last year, but I feel like we’re even busier than we were last year. We do so much contact tracing and commuting with students and their families about quarantining and how long that’s supposed to last or isolation and how long that’s supposed to last,” Huertas said.

“Last year was the first year that I was here, so it was a really cool perspective from last year to this year for me, because last year I was learning what we do for all our students as far as meds and for students who come into the clinic. This year [is a] total three-sixty just the way we handle the students who need to come down versus last year is different since we’re not allowing kids into the clinic, but I love it and it is a joy to see students when they do come down,” Mertens said.

On the topic of holidays, Huertas said, “I would echo everything that the centers for disease control and St. Louis County Department of Health are saying.” 

“Just to reduce the risk of spreading the disease or if you can do it [holiday gathering] outside, wear a mask when you’re inside, no more than 10 people, for sure,” Mertens said.

“Anything we can do to limit the virus,” Mertens said.

See Also:Voices of Webster: School nurse shares perspective

See Also: Voices of Webster: School nurse discusses health safety during holidays, career

Lydia Urice – Podcast Editor

This will be Lydia Urice’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.

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