CICERO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everyone’s job and for school nurses, it’s also bringing a lot of extra stress and responsibility.
Peg Puma has been a school nurse for 16 years and she currently works at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Before COVID-19, Puma’s never had to put on full PPE in a school hallway, but now that’s what she has to do when a student is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
At C-NS, the teachers will alert the health office that they have a student in their classroom who is not feeling well. Then, the nurses will take the students into an evaluation room, remove their cloth mask and replace it with a surgical one, and then close the door and exit the room so they can put on their full PPE. Then, the student is evaluated and likely sent home.
The evaluation room is cleaned on a daily basis, and it gets a special “COVID cleaning” after a symptomatic student is in there.
“Any cold symptoms or fever, obviously we get right ahold of their parent, you know, tell them that they have to go home and explain the process for returning to school,” said Margaret (Peg) Miller-Puma, a school nurse at C-NS.
If a student is sent home, they have to be seen by their healthcare provider within 48 hours, and the doctor will decide if they need a COVID test. If the provider doesn’t feel they need a test, the student needs a doctor’s note with a different diagnosis in order to return to school. If the provider can’t clear the student of COVID or another illness, they need a negative test before coming back.
“What’s hard is that the parents aren’t always happy with what we have to say. And unfortunately, we’re just following the state and county health department guidelines,” Miller-Puma said.
A difficult balance for the nurses, who also have to keep track of who should and shouldn’t be walking the hallways.
“It’s been a lot of paperwork, a lot of following up with people, and we really miss the kids. You know, that’s one of the reasons you become a school nurse is because you like the students,” Miller-Puma said.