School Nurses Continue to Rise to COVID Challenges
Posted on 02/08/2022
Goodwin Elementary School Nurse Mairi Harvey

Though the pages are still being written, it’s clear the history books will remember healthcare workers as the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. At East Hartford Public Schools, we’re lucky to have 19 of those heroes working in our schools.

“Our school nurses are on the front lines every day working directly with our students and families. Simply put, our schools would not be open without the tireless efforts of our nurses,” said Superintendent Nathan Quesnel.

The job of a school nurse changed dramatically during the pandemic, according to EHPS Nursing Supervisor Shelley Farrar. In addition to their regular duties such as medication and treatment administrations, nurses now have to manage COVID protocols and instruct students and families on COVID symptoms, treatments, and isolation/quarantine times. 

Farrar explained, “They work overtime, they work weekends, they text staff at all times if staff have questions.  They contact parents and families constantly and try to help them in any way.”

All of this has taken an emotional and mental toll. Nurses say one of the most difficult parts has been communicating with families, especially due to the controversial and ever-changing nature of the pandemic.

“The rules keep changing for isolation/ quarantine and that makes explaining everything to the families very challenging,” said Goodwin Elementary School Nurse Mairi Harvey.

Nicole Tarbell, Nurse at East Hartford Middle School, said, “Making those calls home isn’t enjoyable but it’s our job.  Some days this got overwhelming, or meant longer days and making calls from home. I wish that parents and guardians understood that we didn’t make the policies for the district, but we enforce them and hold the safety of our students number one.”

Nurses say they share the same priority as East Hartford families, which is keeping our schools safe so students can learn.

“We are here to support families during this difficult time,” said Silver Lane Elementary School Nurse Joplin Labissiere. “In my opinion, sometimes people think that the school nurse’s goal is to send children home. The exact opposite is true. Our goal is for students to be healthy and stay in school so that they can access their education. If your child is sent home, our nursing judgment is telling us that your child truly isn’t well enough to be in the building. When absences are low we are happy because it means that the policies and other measures in place are working.”