Swabber Spotlight: Hear From Nurses About Classroom Testing!

For Nurse Appreciation Week, we asked you to nominate exceptional nurses. Here’s what those nurses had to say about their pandemic experiences.

May 12, 2021

Patricia Varela BSN, MSN, FNP-C

Ginkgo IDB Center

Can you describe some challenges that you have faced during the pandemic? How did you cope with those challenges?

Back in April 2020, the top challenges I faced during the COVID outbreak were PPE shortages and not enough staff leading to working longer hours. Working on a Covid positive floor with the same gown, mask, and face shield for a week was certainly very scary. No matter how swollen my forehead was I could not work without a face shield. 

At first it caused a lot of fear, uncertainty and anxiety for me and those around me, especially because no one really knew what the outcome would be. Once I determined that the pandemic was something that I had not much control over besides following CDC guidelines, I decided to redirect my energy towards things that I could control such as maintaining my mental health by exercising, eating healthy, and keeping in touch with my family over video chat.

What advice would you give to other healthcare practitioners navigating the pandemic?

It’s important to maintain their own well-being, mentally and physically, in order to contribute to the safety of their patients, family, and community. 

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

We are all together in this, for the first time I think we should think about the well-being of all instead of solely focusing on our own well being because without the support of our neighbors, community, city, state, country, world we can’t win over this pandemic. 

Jean Hobbie RN, BSN, MS

Hatfield Public Schools

What is your role? Has that role changed during the pandemic?

School Nurse Manager. The role has exponentially expanded during the pandemic to add school community resources, daily case management, coordination of care, and occasional contact tracing.

What advice would you give to others who are navigating school during the pandemic?

Allow for self-care, making mistakes, and checking in with colleagues.  There is no such thing as “perfect” but a great deal of “good enough” efforts happening in school nursing right now.  As nurses, we know that despite tremendous strides (esp. with vaccination efforts in the U.S.), the battle against COVID is not over.  It will be important to continue to stay informed to be balanced resources for our school communities.

How can the community support schools and school nurses right now?

Promote the value of supporting each other with the facts, with the funds, and with the flexibility to recognize and respond to outbreaks when they happen.

Danielle Gallan MSN-PH, RN

Supervisor of Health Services, Stoughton Public Schools

Can you introduce yourself?

I am a nurse with an extensive background in business and technology. My nursing experience has focused on community and pediatric care. I have been working for Stoughton Public Schools for the past 5 years, first as a per diem school nurse and in my current role for a little more than 2 years. I absolutely love my role and the positive impact that it allows me to have on the community. I have been a Stoughton resident for over 16 years, and with my children being a part of the SPS community, I truly have a vested interest for the health and well being of staff and students.

How has your role changed during the pandemic?

My role and my nursing team’s role has expanded greatly during the pandemic. While our roles were previously more consistent with the typical school day and year, this school year we are working nights, weekends, holidays, and school vacations with the local public health department and the Community Tracing Collaborative performing contact tracing for positive cases in our school community. I am grateful for my incredible team of nurses, who have been working tirelessly by my side throughout the past 15 months.I am fortunate to have a supportive superintendent, deputy superintendent, and administration team who have consistently involved me in planning during this school year and every time there is an adjustment in the guidance from MDPH. Our job is to educate well children, and our focus has been to keep healthy children in school learning and quarantining only those who absolutely need to be.  

What advice would you give to others who are navigating school during the pandemic?

Lead with science, not with fear. And I think that’s something that we’ve done well in Stoughton since the beginning. Leading with science and data and grounding yourself in that space, so that when those dealing with the fear and the anxiety come to you, you’re able to then listen, but also educate in hopes of helping them better understand the context of the pandemic. I believe it is important to have an understanding that everyone is in a different place with the pandemic, and we really never know what someone else may be dealing with in their personal life. We have to remember that people have suffered unimaginable losses this year, leading with an open mind and heart is also important. We have utilized pooled testing to better understand the prevalence of COVID in our school community and using the data obtained from pooled testing to ensure a safer school community during this exceptional school year.

Isabella Riendeau, Associate in Nursing


Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Isabella and I graduated nursing school in May of 2020. Graduating in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t on my list of things to do, but truly I wouldn’t change it. I got to see so many people come together for healthcare workers and really it showed us all what caring for each other means. 

What do you think are the most important strategies for dealing with COVID-19?

Important strategies to me would be taking the time as health care workers for ourselves. Sometimes we all get so caught up in helping others we forget about ourselves. Also make sure to connect with loved ones whether it is a phone call or a Facetime. This pandemic was a learning process that everyone had to learn a new way of life together. 

What are the challenges of communicating with non-experts about COVID-19? How do you manage those challenges?

During all of this I think we have probably all been faced with people who do not believe COVID-19 is real and the best way I have dealt with it is by sharing some of my experiences and also listening to their concerns. It’s hard to understand something when you’re not seeing it or dealing with it daily and all we can do is help to educate others. 

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Throughout all of this I am grateful to have been able to have graduated nursing school during this time and be able to help out. I am grateful for the job it has brought me, the things I’ve learned, the healthcare workers I’ve worked with and it has shown me what truly matters in the world. During this time I think it united us all more than we realize.