School Nurse Job Description Changes Dramatically in 2020

While she once dealt with headaches and gym injuries, Nurse Sams is primarily in charge of contact tracing and case management of COVID-19 this year.

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Photo Submitted

Dallastown High School Nurse Whitney Sams spends much of her day this year at her desk monitoring students and symptoms of COVID-19.

Charlotte Van Haren, Reporter

Just like so many other jobs in healthcare, being a school nurse has been impacted by COVID-19.

Dallastown High School Head Nurse Miss Sams has been working for the school district for seven years and her job description has changed a lot this year. 

“Most of my days are now spent researching and doing case management of the students who are being affected by COVID-19,” Sams said.

Students impacted by COVID-19 include the ones who have tested positive, the ones who are quarantined, and the ones who have symptoms of the virus. Sams’ job is to trace who those students who have been in school and who have been in contact with less than six feet apart for more than 15 minutes. 

“There are a lot of moving parts when we have an individual who tests positive for COVID–19,” Sams said.

Often, she works with high school administration to backtrack every student’s location in school and see where they were on the specific days. This includes looking at seating charts for classes and speaking to their teachers and classmates. 

This isn’t Sams only experience with the virus.

In the spring of 2020 after the closure of schools, Sams spent time working more directly in healthcare.

“I worked for a nursing agency in long term care facilities.  I took care of some patients with COVID and post recovery,” Sams said.

While working in a nursing home last spring, Dallastown High School Nurse Miss Sams used 3D printed expanders for her mask that were created by English teacher Mrs. Newcomer. (Photo Submitted)

Sams takes pride in her work because she enjoys doing it. In fact, it’s what she’s always wanted to do. 

Sams knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was in high school. After graduating from Penn State University in Nursing in 2009, she has now been a nurse for 11 years.

“I had a friend in high school whose mom was a nurse. She encouraged me to shadow a nurse, and I enjoyed the patient interaction,” Sams said. “I also enjoyed medical shows growing up.  They always fascinated me.  The human body is all connected and needs all of its parts to work properly. If one part is out of whack, how do we fix it?”

When she first graduated, she worked as a nurse for a small charter school in Bedford County, PA, where she grew up.

“I take great pride in my job and maintaining the safety and well being of our students and staff. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else,” Sams said.

There are many new procedures in the school but Sams believes that they are important in keeping everyone at Dallastown High School safe. 

Sams has new procedures this year, many similar to others  in the workforce. She’s adapted her time and her life to be there for the students at Dallastown. It is all related to keeping people safe. 

When dealing with a student who could be sick with COVID-19, she asks parents or guardians to go through a specific screening process that consists of questions about symptoms and who they have been in contact with. 

The screening checklist and the current cases at the various schools  can be found on the DASD COVID-19 Monitoring Dashboard.