Triad school nurses feeling the strain as pediatric COVID cases increase

(WGHP) — Some Triad school nurses work long hours to track positive COVID cases, isolate students and help families navigate to a positive test result.

“We feel we need more help. We definitely feel like we need more help. We try to work to add more bodies to support, to support our nursing team. Sure,” said Amy Widderich, chief nurse of the Alamance-Burlington school system.

She explained that some nurses work up to 16 hours a day while continuing to track down contracts at night.

“Their day starts with phone calls from families asking, ‘My child is sick, they are not feeling well, can they come to school? Can’t they come to school?’ or calls related to someone seeking COVID-19 testing and needing follow-up care,” Widderich explained.

Alamance-Burlington School System has a school nurse in every school, but that’s not enough.

“As the day goes on and the students are in the classroom, that influx of students in the classroom who may not be feeling well, managing students with symptoms of illness. And then additionally for those students who were sent home or sent home because they were tested, the follow-up regarding those cases if they were positive,” Widderich said.

In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, each nurse is responsible for six schools.

“Six schools is a lot, for one nurse it’s too much for one nurse. Our nurses currently work 10-hour days, and they work 10-hour days to get the minimum done and that’s not even putting COVID on my nurses’ board,” said Brooke Hamby, the school nurse supervisor for the Forsyth County Department of Health.

Hamby says there is currently no time for her staff to monitor cases.

“Our school nurses generally serve as guidance and guidance for what the school district should be doing or what the school should be doing, things they see in the schools that they could potentially change a little bit to make things better,” explained them out.

The district has a separate team of 10 contact tracers and a COVID coordinator in each school.

“These are teacher assistants, administrative staff and they will tell you it’s a full-time job”

The Forsyth County Department of Public Health expects to add more staff in the coming weeks to help handle COVID testing.

The District of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools plans to begin screening tests for athletes and other extracurricular activities in early October.

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