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CCSD school nurses help with COVID-19 response

Melanie Giuliani is a nurse at two Las Vegas schools but jumped at the chance this spring to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Beginning in March — and lasting for a couple of months — she spent two or three days a week assisting an infection-control nurse at the Clark County Fire Department.

“Our main role was tracking cases where firefighters may have ran calls that potentially exposed them to COVID-19,” Giuliani said. She also assisted the Southern Nevada Health District at a pop-up testing site at a senior facility.

Giuliani said it was a meaningful experience to fill those roles: “It was overwhelming, but I felt so thankful to be part of it.”

She’s among more than 35 Clark County School District school nurses and nursing administrators who volunteered to help with COVID-19 community response on weekdays and weekends during the school year, which ended Wednesday. They served at places such as testing sites, Las Vegas’ ISO-Q (Isolation and Quarantine) Complex for the homeless, fire departments and nonprofits.

CCSD employs 202 school nurses (who are registered nurses), seven school nurse administrators, six nurse coordinators, one director/chief nurse and 22 special procedure nurses (registered nurses and licensed practical nurses).

Every CCSD school nurse had the option to volunteer but could decline due to a personal, professional or family reason, said Linda Kalekas, health services coordinator for CCSD.

The initial requests for help — which came through the Clark County Multi-Agency Coordination Center — were to support the Clark County and North Las Vegas fire departments, she said.

Participating school nurses volunteered on top of their CCSD job responsibilities, which evolved after school campuses closed in mid-March and distance learning continued the rest of the school year.

During the school shutdown, school nurses contacted students and their families via email and phone “to check on students’ health status and offer assistance with community referrals,” CCSD wrote in a statement to the Review-Journal. They also collaborated with special education teams to provide support during virtual meetings.

Nationwide, school nurses in other cities also assisted this spring with COVID-19 response, said Linda Mendonca, president-elect of the National Association of School Nurses. On top of that, “nurses are still connecting with their families and doing things around planning for the next school year.”

How school nurses helped

A large group of CCSD school nurses wanted to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak “to help stop the spread of disease in our community,” Kalekas said. And early on, the Southern Nevada Health District reached out to CCSD.

Giuliani, who has been a school nurse for more than three years, works at Stewart School and Hill Elementary School. She said many people don’t realize the scope of what school nurses do but that they’re essentially community health nurses.

School nurses regularly participate in local and statewide tabletop and full-scale disaster exercises, she said, adding, “Pandemics are one of those things we have exercised multiple times over the years.”

School nurses are also equipped to respond to infectious disease outbreaks such as measles, Kalekas said. “The process is already in place for us to do surveillance, monitoring and reporting with the health district.

There’s a longstanding and close-working relationship between the health district and CCSD nurses, said Jeff Quinn, public health preparedness manager for the Southern Nevada Health District.

Back around 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak, the health district used CCSD nurses to provide vaccinations at schools, he said. And during the COVID-19 outbreak, “it’s really invaluable having Clark County School District nurses as an extension to the response.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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