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'We run toward the tragedy' | School nurse describes how her job shifted overnight to help fight against COVID-19

May 6 is National School Nurse Day. We want to recognize the incredible work school nurses do both in and out of the classroom.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — As recognition of front line workers come in from across the country, area nurses continue to make a difference during the fight against the coronavirus.

Robin Ingram is a school health nurse in Montgomery County, Md., a role that utilizes her many decades of experience. 

"You really tie in everything you do into these roles because when you are meeting with the kids, you are also meeting with their parents and grandparents," said Ingram.

In March, school closures left Robin wondering about other ways to serve the community during the pandemic.

"Obviously it became very serious for us when we got the notification that we were closing schools," said Ingram. "We were asked about volunteering at the various places."

In Montgomery County, all 100 school nurses who work in schools across the county are now helping in the fight against the coronavirus. They are helping out at testing sites, running call centers and helping to investigate coronavirus cases.

“Just like your first responders, when there is trauma or tragic events, we run towards the tragedy. We are the help," she added.

Ingram initially worked in the call center hearing first-hand the fears from the community. 

"We really in real-time, with CDC pulled up on our computers, trying to help calm the community during this time by giving them factual information and at the same time learning ourselves what is going on because as nurses, we want to help."

She then moved to the front line working at the testing sites and seeing nearly 80 to 100 patients a day.

"Everyone who is there has fears and concerns because they have grandparents and they have parents. A lot of the nurses are grandparents. They are wives, they are mothers so their families worry about them as well."

Credit: Nicole DiAntonio

Ingram said the current times remind her of the experience covering the AIDS epidemic. 

"Probably showing my age here because I was a nurse during the times when AIDS came on the scene here in the metropolitan area. I was a nurse during that time so that was probably the last time I really dressed up in gloves and took care of those clients which no one wanted to take care of."

This new outbreak is bringing a bunch of new firsts. 

"This is the first experience that is a pandemic. It is global. It’s the entire United States and everyone is talking about it. It affects everybody."

Although Ingram is temporarily out of the school buildings, she worries about her students and how this could affect the next school year.

"I’m really worried about the children and how they are impacted. The stress of them not being with their peers. The seniors not graduating and that actual ceremony. My fifth graders moving onto the sixth grade and we generally clap them out. They are missing all the things they were looking forward to."

For now, she remains one of the many heroes stepping up to the challenge of helping others.

"I feel that everyone, whether or not they work a call center or work in the jail or the shelters or the testing pads or whatever, I feel that everyone has done something to help their community in some way.  I just know that."

Credit: Nicole DiAntonio
Credit: Nicole DiAntonio

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