School nurse adapts to working in pandemic


Alisha Lou

Nurse Megan Blunt sees a student during her first week at FLC

Debora Oquendo-Serrano and Omar Mumin

Nurse Megan Blunt started working full-time at FLC in December (Tiffany Rodriguez)

Update: Franklin Learning Center’s full-time nurse vacancy has been filled. Nurse Megan Blunt will now be working in the nurse’s office daily, with support from Gina Hall every other Monday.

Franklin Learning Center, along with many schools in the School District of Philadelphia, have been struggling to find full time nurses, starting the year with vacancies. The lack of nurses in the school district has had a more serious effect due to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, COVID-19 has caused change within every working environment, causing fear within some. But, with procedures on how to stay safe and protect themselves from the ongoing virus, others feel comfort.

Gina Hall is a nurse at Franklin Learning Center on Mondays. Throughout the course of each week, she provides nursing services to five different schools.

“I love my job! It is diverse and you can totally change your career path but continue to practice nursing,” Hall said. “Majoring in Education but nursing was always in my heart. School nursing merges those two.”

But this year, as students and staff have returned to in-person education and risk contracting COVID, being a school nurse is more complicated.

“I am not concerned,” Hall said. “I am fully vaccinated and I follow all of the mitigation guidelines by masking, washing my hands, and keeping my distance when necessary. School health services does a wonderful job keeping us up to date on the latest information that we need to keep ourselves healthy and safe.”

Due to ongoing COVID cases returning to high numbers, five schools in the district have been forced to temporarily close within the first month of school’s reopening.

“The pandemic has been a challenge for all of us, but as a school nurse returning to school it has been overwhelmingly busy and exhausting,” Hall said.

Franklin Learning Center has traditionally had a full time nurse in addition to Hall but a vacancy has left FLC without a school nurse four days a week since the start of the year. This leaves Hall, already supporting multiple school communities each week, with multiple responsibilities.

“It’s kind of like doing two jobs,” Hall said. “One’s being COVID patrol and the other one’s being your regular school nurse responsible for kids who you see with braces and who need elevator passes and have medical concerns. So all of that is like the regular job and then COVID is like another job.”

These tasks add up when there’s only one day each week to complete them.

“Typically I’m responsible for tracking, immunizations, making sure everybody has their shot records of the day, making sure people have physicals, and all the normal stuff that you would do to be in a school. But because of COVID, we have all of that plus everything that has to do with COVID testing consents, talking to families about how long their students have to quarantine, about getting different testing done,” Hall said.

Students specifically are left at a disadvantage due to this shortage, unable to obtain medical attention every day of the week, with a continuously spreading virus. In most schools like Franklin Learning Center, only staff, athletes, and members of certain music groups are tested regularly.

School nurses have always been in need, but with the added responsibility from the pandemic, the job may be off-putting for those who want to be nurses. Students may spread COVID without knowing due to how long symptoms could take to show.

“The current situation with COVID has made my job more challenging and more demanding than ever,” Hall said.