Point: School nurse policies need reform


Ellie Hattem, Contributing Writer

Many of Schreiber’s school nurse policies were changed in the last two years, as an attempt to comply with COVID-19 safety recommendations.  Although these revisions afforded some benefits, they have also reduced students’ access to care from the school nurses and should be revised with an aim of keeping care easily accessible for everyone at Schreiber, while still prioritizing pandemic safety.

Some of the new policies are undeniably necessary for pandemic safety.  For instance, all students who have had COVID-19 must receive a medical grade negative test and spend ten days at home without contact with peers prior to returning to school.  This policy helps to stop the spread of the virus by ensuring that all students are healthy before re-entering the building.  

However, certain aspects of the well-intentioned COVID-19 policies have undermined the purpose of the nursing staff by disincentivizing students from seeking medical help.  Notably, students and families are forced to pay out of pocket for COVID-19 tests from non-school test centers if they exhibit symptoms of the virus.  This is expensive and time-consuming; it encourages students to avoid the nurses office altogether, even when feeling sick.  

This inconvenience, coupled with the requirement for students to get tested for COVID-19 if they show common cold or flu symptoms—such as a cough or sneeze—is unavoidable, as this is the only way to ensure that students do not have COVID-19.  However, this means that the school should ease the burden on students, wherever possible, to prevent further discouragement from seeking medical attention when it is needed.  The school could resolve this issue by providing COVID-19 tests to students with no charge.   

“It would be more beneficial if the school gave out the tests because it is a more convenient location,” said freshman Athena Dritsas. 

  When students around the building feel ill and need to visit the nurse, they are required to receive a pass from their teacher.  This may cause students to avoid seeing the nurse, as communicating their symptoms to a teacher in front of a classroom of judgmental students could create anxiety, not only for the student, who may be afraid to disrupt class, but also for the teacher and students in the classroom, who may now feel at a risk of infection.  When dismissal permission from a teacher is required, there is a higher likelihood that symptomatic students will remain in class for a longer period of time—potentially for the rest of the day.  Should the student test positive for COVID-19—or any other contagious disease, for that matter—their chance of infecting other students in their class is also higher.

 “If people are sick, they shouldn’t feel pressured to stay in class for longer than what’s necessary,” said freshman Addyson Rejwan.

The nurses office also requires student-athletes, who have recovered from COVID-19, to fill out an additional COVID-19 clearance form in order to return to their sport.  This creates delays for coaches filling out teams rosters, while also placing additional pressure on students and family to make sure that the form is completed.  If the student has obtained negative test results and is healthy, they should be able to participate in school sports immediately without having to fill out an additional clearance form. 

“As an athlete myself, it would be easier just to show the nurses my negative test instead of filling out an additional form,” said freshman Juliet Feinblum.

Schreiber needs to update its policies on school nurses regarding COVID-19 and seeking extra medical help.  Although these procedures were designed to keep our students and staff safe during these rapidly-changing, largely unprecedented times, they should be regularly revised for optimal convenience with the goal of increasing students’ access to medical help, while still reducing the spread of the pandemic.