Cafeteria worker Estell Swain, center, loads food packs along with school nurse Mary Hovermale, left, as they distribute meals to students at Fairfield Middle School on March 18 in Richmond, Virginia, due to coronavirus. May 6 is National School Nurse Day. Credit: Steve Helber | AP

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National School Nurse Day, May 6, is a time to celebrate the specialty practice of school nursing. In 1972, the National Association of School Nurses created National School Nurse Day to recognize and celebrate their role in the educational setting.

The theme this year is School Nurses: Supporting Students in Times of Crisis. This theme reinforces the changing times of 2020.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

This year, more than ever, all members of our school communities, school nurses included, have been required to take on unprecedented roles and adapt quickly to changes within their jobs. It is reflective of the significant roles school nurses have played in the well-being of their school communities to help maintain healthy environments for children and families so they can learn and grow during this crisis.

The World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the “year of the nurse and midwife.” Along with this, on May 12 we are also lucky enough to be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

School nurses are on the front lines playing an integral role linking health care and education. We, as school nurses, have learned to meet the ever-changing needs of our students and community as health care providers. Our primary goal as school nurses continues to be about promoting wellness and improving the health of children, even during this pandemic. School nurses seem to soldier on and adapt while continuing to support academic success of students.

During this crisis school nurses are becoming innovative like never before and stepping outside of their comfort zones to support and guide not only students but parents, teachers, administrators and superintendents as well.

Judith Doran, a school nurse from Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, said it best: “You may not find school nurses gowned and masked in an incomprehensibly busy emergency department, ICU or in-patient setting but we have found other ways to help students.”

School nurses across Maine are checking in on students and families with chronic health conditions using Zoom or Google chat. They are creating webinars, ensuring CDC guidelines are being met, delivering meals and updating school communities on COVID-19. Here are some detailed examples on how school nurses are adapting.

Karen Chiang from South Berwick is hosting an after-school virtual baking and garden club.

Shannon Robbins from RSU 71 in Belfast and Crystal Greaves from AOS 94/SAD 46 in Dexter are working to deliver meals weekly on school bus routes in conjunction with the Good Shepherd Food Bank, which has adapted to help school pantries.

Jody Gray, Melanie Lessard and I from RSU 4 in Wales are nurses working on student and staff activity and mindfulness calendars.

Melissa Brewer from Winthrop has updated her district’s website.

Melanie Whited from RSU16 in Poland is attending mental health trainings, strengthening her skill set.

Nancy Hoskins from RSU 19 in Newport is making cloth face coverings for school staff, postal staff and community businesses.

On behalf of the Maine Association of School Nurses, I would like to take this opportunity to thank and celebrate 4,000 school nurses throughout Maine on National School Nurse Day for their outstanding commitment to our students and community during this pandemic. I also wanted to highlight the action of nurses everywhere and say thank you for your dedication and ability to adapt to patient needs in this ever changing environment.

Melinda Nadeau is a school nurse at the Carrie Ricker School in RSU 4 in Litchfield. She is president-elect of the Maine Association of School Nurses.