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Arizona school nurses prepared to help fight off coronavirus in schools

PHOENIX — As Arizona schools begin welcoming students back into classrooms, school nurses and health assistants will be critical to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

And these frontline health care providers have been busy preparing.

“We’ve been dedicating the majority of our time in getting the physical buildings ready and making sure that our health office procedures and guidelines are set,” said Christine Mahoney, a board member of the School Nurses Organization of Arizona.

Mahoney, who’s also the resource and education nurse for Mesa Public Schools, said school nurses and health assistants have mainly turned to state and federal COVID-19 guidance to create their own protocols and to help their schools prepare to welcome students back.

They’ve been posting signs throughout campus and on school buses to promote healthy behaviors that prevent the spread of germs. They’ve also been helping with classroom and building layouts to ensure students are able to practice social distancing.

And some have been preparing educational materials for students, such as videos and classroom presentations, that cover various topics, including why physical distancing and wearing a face mask is important.

“We want to really try and support these kids coming back,” Mahoney said.

“There’s enough going on in the world right now that’s scary and uncertain, but we don’t want school to be the place that they run into that,” she added. “We want them to know that they’re here to learn and we’re going to keep them safe.”

In addition, she said school nurses and health assistants have been educating themselves on the coronavirus.

They’ve been researching and getting trained on topics like the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, who is most at risk, when someone is most contagious and how to do contact tracing.

They’ve also been passing on that knowledge to teachers and staff at their school.

“We’ve been educating them as far as how to assess the kids to determine what needs to go to the health office versus what can be taken care of in a classroom,” Mahoney said.

She said most school nurses and health assistants she’s talked to are ready to go back. But she said there is concern mostly “about wanting to make sure we keep everybody that we’re working with healthy.”

“For those of us that are a nurse, we know this is kind of what we signed up for,” she said. “We’re doing to the best of our ability what we can to promote health and to mitigate getting this ourselves.”

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