Nurse Joie Mara has been in the middle of it all
June 12, 2021
Over a year after shutting down for what originally was going to be a two-week break, Watertown High School returned to a full five-day schedule in April, with hybrid learning being completely removed.
As the school’s nurse, Joie Mara, has played a key role in the school’s successful transition to full in-person learning. The Raider Times spoke with Mara in April to learn more about a school nurse’s perspective of this pandemic- dominated school year.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your job as a nurse?
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed my job as a school nurse in many ways. Now, I have to wear a new set of personal protective equipment [PPE] each time I see a student. The flow of visits has changed, where I can only have two students in the waiting room and the others have to wait in the hallway. Meetings have changed to virtual. The time spent on COVID-related issues has also eaten most of my work hours, which have extended to evenings and weekends as needed.
“I have had some interesting encounters with teachers/parents/ guardians over the phone, more likely due to the presence of or an increase in anxiety in the population in general. Great communication has been the key, especially between administration and parents/guardians and staff. If COVID protocols are not adequately communicated, school nurses are caught in the middle.”
Has being a school nurse affected your perspective on COVID-19? How?
“All nurses have been taught how to deal with infection control by the time we stepped into the nursing school. With this knowledge, fortified by years of experience dealing with different kinds of infections, nurses are better prepared in this pandemic compared to non-healthcare workers.
“On the other hand, we only dealt with small-scale infections pre-COVID. This pandemic is different. As a school nurse, I can see the devastation COVID-19 brought, but not without silver linings. Working closely with students and their families, I could see more of the effects of COVID 19.
“This pandemic also reminded me of how we are all related to each other, nation to nation, city to city, and person to person. As a school nurse, it opens my eyes wider how inequality affects education and health where the disadvantaged are more likely to be affected more by COVID-19, whether physically, emotionally, or even educationally.”
Did anything good come out of the past year? Why?
“Now, the silver linings. COVID-19 put the healthcare workers and other frontline workers in the limelight. It brought the importance of the most important and the most basic tenet of nursing, where cleanliness and disease prevention go hand in hand.
“This pandemic highlights the importance of technology. Work, even in the medical field, somewhat continued safely and efficiently because of technology. Even just to help with our sanity during this time of social distancing, technology brought hours and hours of human connection and entertainment.”
Is there anything new you learned in the past year? What?
“Lots of things actually. The most important thing is that we are interconnected to each other. This is not a new concept; it is just cemented by this pandemic. We can affect each other, even just by breathing!
“Another is that we put our trust in others in most of the things that we do in our daily lives. We trust the people who made our food that they did not cough while preparing our order. We trust the people around us that they are not sick or else they would have stayed at home. We trust the scientists that what they have created will help us get through the pandemic for the goodness of the human race.”
Do you have any advice for students living through the COVID-19 pandemic?
“Knowledge is power, and the fruits of this power can only be achieved by acting in the best way possible according to our knowledge. Learn about COVID-19, and listen to experts in the field who have proven backgrounds and who belong to reputable organizations. We can help each other in preventing the spread of COVID-19 simply by not getting sick ourselves and by teaching others the facts that we learned.
“Hang in there and be a support to each other. Just like I usually end my emails: should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me [at [email protected]].”
–June 5, 2021–
Naomi Baker is a member of the Raider Times staff.