New nurses aim to ensure safe, healthy school environment amidst COVID-19 challenges
November 30, 2020
Nurse Erika Almquist
As the world has come to a halt with the pandemic, school nurses have continued to work harder than ever. Erika Almquist is one of two new nurses who is facing health and safety challenges related to COVID-19.
Almquist has been involved in the nursing field since her college graduation. She earned her master’s degree at Boston College and began working as a family nurse practitioner. She also worked in El Salvador as a community nurse, teaching health at a youth correctional facility.
“It was basically a juvie that I worked in,” Almquist said with a laugh.
Almquist went on to explain that she mostly only saw kids who needed help with small issues, yet this experience widened her skills that she’s still uses to this day.
Before coming to ARHS, Almquist worked at Emerson College as a school nurse.
Almquist’s in-person interactions with people at Algonquin have been positive so far, leaving her with a good first impression of the school.
“There’s a lot of joy in high school,” Almquist said.
COVID-19 has affected Almquist’s role as a school nurse.
“Even though there are fewer students coming into the office, there’s more paperwork in the background going on to make up for that,” Almquist said.
Almquist explained that she and school nurse Heather Allen have really worked hard in making sure kids feel safe to come into their office by making separate rooms for students with different symptoms.
“I think it’s important for students to know we’ve worked hard to be able to treat both students with non-COVID symptoms and those with them,” Almquist said.
More than anything Almquist wants students to feel comfortable coming to the nurse during this challenging time that understandably makes some students anxious.
Nurse Heather Allen
Being a school nurse is difficult enough without a pandemic; now, with COVID-19, the position is made even harder. New school nurse Heather Allen is experiencing firsthand the substantial work and stress that comes with her job.
“It’s kind of difficult in a way to start this position in the middle of a pandemic,” Allen said. “There are a lot more things to think about.”
Allen began her medical career working in an emergency room for 10 years. Last year, she began working as a school nurse part-time at Ashland High School so she could spend more time with her family.
“Working in the emergency room, you normally have to work a lot of weekends and holidays,” Allen said. “I have two small children and my husband also works nights, weekends and holidays. It became difficult to juggle all of their schedules.”
Although a school nurse and working in the emergency room may seem very different to each other at their core they require a lot of the same skill set and are similar in many ways.
“[Working as a school nurse is] not very different from working in an emergency room because you never know who is going to come in and what they need,” Allen said.
During these difficult times, Allen is working alongside school nurse Erika Almquist, who is also new to Algonquin this year.
“The other nurse here is also new, so we’re learning together, which makes it easier in some respects,” Allen said.