Triad school nurses feeling the strain as pediatric COVID cases increase

Piedmont Triad News

(WGHP) — Some Triad school nurses are working long hours tracking positive COVID cases, isolating students, and helping families navigate a positive test result. 

“We feel like we need more help. We absolutely feel like we need more help. We’re trying to work to add more bodies to support, to support our nursing team. For sure,” Alamance-Burlington School System Lead Nurse Amy Widderich said.

She explained some nurses are working up to 16 hours per day as they continue contract tracing efforts at night. 

“Their day starts with phone calls from families with questions about, ‘My child is sick, they’re not feeling well, can they come to school? Can they not come to school?’ or up calls related to somebody who was out for COVID-19 testing and needing follow-up care,” Widderich explained. 

Alamance-Burlington School System has a school nurse in every school, but it isn’t enough.  

“As the day progresses and students are in class, that influx of students in class that may not be feeling well, the management of students with symptoms of illness. And then in addition for those students that were sent home or at home, because they were tested the follow up related to 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 any one nurse, it’s too much for one nurse. Our nurses are working right now 10-hour days, and they’re working 10-hour days just to get the minimum done and that’s not even putting COVID on my nurses’ plates,” said Brooke Hamby, school nurse supervisor for the Forsyth County Department of Public Health. 

Hamby says right now there isn’t time for her staff to track cases. 

“Our school nurses are generally serving as guidance, offering guidance for what the school district should do or what the school should do, things that they see in the schools that they could potentially change a little bit to make things better,” she explained. 

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

“These are teacher assistants, office administration personnel and they’ll tell you it’s a full-time job”  

The Forsyth County Public Health Department expects to add more staff members to help deal with COVID testing in the next few weeks. 

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district plans to start screening testing for athletes and other extracurriculars in early October.  

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