With the coronavirus pandemic altering the lives of all students, teachers, and staff at Cherokee, there is one group that has undergone the most change and has still managed to provide security and stability to our school. The nursing staff at Cherokee, consistently doing all they can to keep Cherokee a safe place, can assert that this year hasn’t been easy—and yet there are still things to be thankful for. As Mrs. Golden, a nurse at Cherokee, takes us through her own story, it becomes clear how much Cherokee benefits from the aid and attitude of its medical staff.
Certainly being a nurse in the 2020-2021 school year is an experience unlike any other, forcing nursing staff at Cherokee to think on their feet and do what needs to be done. Mrs. Golden articulates her everyday responsibilities and how the nursing staff is mitigating disease spread.
“We’re doing a lot of contact tracing…we are working with parents, with the health department. We work with the administration,” she says. “We’re following direct guidelines from the CDC and the Burlington County Health Department…we’ve gone from micro to macro.”
In a normal school environment, as Mrs. Golden shares, the responsibilities of a school nurse would deal heavily with education, health awareness, etc. However, in the current atmosphere of things, it becomes more about keeping the community safe. Instead of dealing primarily with students, Mrs. Golden shares that she is now speaking with parents more, and interacting with different departments and organizations to keep Cherokee a safe and healthy place to be.
When asked how she views her role as a school nurse this year in comparison with other years, Mrs. Golden didn’t hesitate.
“Different. It’s just different,” she tells. “I am more nursing the community than I am [working in] direct student care. It’s a bigger picture that we’re looking at.”
According to Mrs. Golden, this year nurses are not just working with students. Staff, maintenance workers, and overall community members are now also under the umbrella of school nurse care and responsibilities. As the pandemic rages on, the nursing staff has to make sure that the school environment is a safe place for everyone to be, and that can include any member of the community.
Going into the beginnings of 2021, there are lessons to be taken away from the health crises of 2020 for everyone. Those who ignore guidelines for health safety put everyone at risk, and school nurses are especially aware of that. Still, Mrs. Golden’s advice for students and staff alike is simple.
“Keep doing what we’re doing…we are the only school in our district that has not [yet] had community spread,” she says seriously. “It could change tomorrow, but right now we have not had anyone who has come in and spread it [Covid-19] to anyone else in the building.”
In light of this positive news, Mrs. Golden cheerfully expresses her gratitude to the community for doing the right thing in these troubling times:
“I’m grateful for our parents. I’m grateful for our students,” she says proudly. “I’m grateful for everybody who’s saying, ‘You know, I don’t feel well, I’m not gonna come in.’”
As Mrs. Golden shares, even many parents have been exposed to Covid through their workplace, but have been responsible enough to “err on the side of caution” and still keep the disease from spreading in the Cherokee building. It is what makes Cherokee’s community so responsible in these times, according to Mrs. Golden.
She explains that the school district did a good job of preparing for the academic year in the summer, making sure that everyone was informed and safe. Preparations included medical supplies, seating arrangements, safer (less exposure) pathways around the building, etc.
“There was a lot of thought that went into it,” Mrs. Golden muses. “We’re really lucky that our district went to so much trouble…I do think that’s a big piece of why we’re still up and running.”
On a more personal level, Mrs. Golden shares her own story of being a nurse, providing positivity and silver linings to a stressful time. She explains the diversity of having a nursing degree, saying that the field is wide enough for many different types of nursing.
“Before I came to Cherokee I was a labor delivery nurse,” she shares. “…I worked special care nursing, I did home health care, I worked with spinal cord injury patients, I did a neuro-intensive care unit.” She pauses. “I’ve always said, you should never ever be bored with nursing.”
Mrs. Golden explains that nursing is a career that can suit many different types of people. Those who work in the operating room won’t usually deal with direct patient interaction, and those who are tired of one type of nursing can easily try another. As her own story shows, nursing is a dynamic and open field that can cater to different preferences of people.
Even travel is a possibility with nursing. Mrs. Golden explains that even with the pandemic, some nurses have “moved all over the place doing different types of nursing.”
Specifically as a school nurse, Mrs. Golden gets to educate students and strengthen the community. She feels that our community truly values her insight (and the insight of all the nursing staff) and takes good care of students. When asked if she would like to spread a message to anyone reading, Mrs. Golden, ever-positive, spoke with true eloquence and grace about her job.
“I feel lucky to do it,” she says humbly. “Our kids are well cared for…I feel very fortunate that I work where I do and we have the community that we have.”
At the end of the day, it’s been a long year and a long pandemic. Nevertheless, being able to be in school is a joint effort, and one we certainly owe not only to positive and caring nurses like Mrs. Golden but also to ourselves. And if we can have the same level of gratitude that Mrs. Golden has, we can surely make it through anything.