Our unsung heroes need support

We’d all hoped to be back to normal by the start of the school year. Instead, America’s students are starting a new year mired in uncertainty and anxiety — which could have been avoided if not for politics getting in the way of beating the pandemic.

And as difficult as this new school year is for students and parents, it’s even tougher for school nurses and teachers. I imagine there are few professions more at wits end than these unsung heroes.

Even before the pandemic, a typical Monday morning would see dozens of kids lined up outside nurse offices, all with a variety of symptoms, their parents unsure of what it could be and how to help them get better. Alicia P., a school nurse in North Carolina, told me that pre-pandemic she saw as many as 40 kids a day in her school — many of whom are underinsured and seldom see a pediatrician. Alicia — and thousands of school nurses just like her — is their first line of defense.

Imagine that scene 18 months into a global pandemic filled with contact tracing and social distancing, masks and vaccines just out of reach for vulnerable young people. I can only imagine the anxiety of a student falling ill on your watch, or the guilt of missing a sign or symptom. Do you send home each student who complains of a stomach ache or headache? What if they continue in class for the day but then are absent the next? Should you have caught it earlier? How often can you re-do lesson plans if students are continually out sick?

Kinsa’s data show that 0–12 year olds are sicker than usual for this time of year. COVID, an early RSV season, and other infectious illnesses have all contributed to this unseasonable rise.

It’s personal, too. Does simply doing their job in a tough situation put a nurse and their family at risk? Will they face an angry wrath for following the science and supporting universal masking?

No wonder they are burned out.

For a safer, healthier school year we must support school nurses and teachers. They need to know we appreciate them and all they do.

Though by no means a panacea, Kinsa’s free FLUency program is one effective way of supporting our school nurses and teachers. The program is designed to reduce the spread of illness in classrooms and lighten workload on nurses. It arms families with smart thermometers, parents can catch illness at the earliest sign or symptom — before children step onto the school bus or into class. By viewing aggregate, anonymous illness trends, school nurses and teachers can take early action if illness levels start to rise. Thanks to a sponsorship from Lysol, FLUency also includes donations of disinfectants to stop the spread.

To the school nurses and teachers doing their best through this pandemic: Thank you. I would be honored to support you.

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Inder Singh is the founder & CEO of Kinsa. Kinsa’s mission is to stop the spread of contagious illness through early detection & early response. kinsahealth.com

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Inder Singh

Inder Singh

Inder Singh is the founder & CEO of Kinsa. Kinsa’s mission is to stop the spread of contagious illness through early detection & early response. kinsahealth.com

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