An Interview with HHS/FMS Nurses


Bianca Arnon , Staff Writer

During a normal year, school nurses juggle the physical, mental, social, and emotional needs of students. Throughout the past two years, however, the nurses have had to accomplish these tasks while also grappling with the new protocols for Covid-19.  When schools were first starting to shut down because of Covid-19, the nurses were still hard at work. 

I had the pleasure to meet with the HHS/FMS nurse, Joanne Cipollina, who told me about some of what she has been through as a school nurse during this troubling time. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, nurses were among the few employees still coming back to the school building: 

Ms. Cipollina said, “We [the nurses] were put into a program that was set up by the Hastings-on-Hudson School district to provide childcare [for] anybody who is a first responder,” 

For the majority of last year, the school was less than half full. During hybrid learning, half of the school was at home. Even when “everyone” went in, some students still opted to stay home. Now everyone is in school, so the nurses are “doing work related to Covid-19, in addition to the job [normally].” All of this combined leaves the nurses with many daily tasks. 

At the end of last year, Ms. Cipollina was feeling optimistic that “in September things were going to be pretty much back to normal.” Her thinking changed once the Delta variant became more of a threat over the summer. While easier than last year, this year still includes new rules and roles.  Specifically, there have been the addition of two new programs. The first being a state mandated procedure which involves unvaccinated staff members needing to be tested weekly. The second program is offered to “anyone in the district whose parents would like to sign [them] up.” It is a “voluntary pool testing of students,” which the nursing staff helps organize and run.   

Although Covid-19 remains a challenge, Ms. Cipollina said that the nurses have a more accurate idea of what to expect.                                                                  

Ms. Cipollina, along with other school nurses, deal with an overwhelming amount of tasks on a daily basis. However, Ms. Cipollina still feels that school is where children belong right now and that attending in person school is worth the added risk. She stated that she is “very happy that we [the school] were able to accommodate all our students back in school.”

Although Ms. Cipollina never would have guessed that she would be in a pandemic during her nursing years, she believes that working through the pandemic has strengthened and taught her new skills. She mentioned how working through Covid-19 has improved her knowledge on “infectious diseases…, setting policies, and adapting new skills, like contact tracing.” 

Ms. Cipollina shared the personal wisdom she used to navigate the pandemic: “My attitude is always take it a day at a time, and to problem solve as the day [goes on].”  Another recommendation that she has is that school nurses everywhere should take care of themselves while off duty. They should make time to “[have] a good time with your friends and family.”

The school nurse’s job has become tougher throughout the pandemic. The nurses at HHS and FMS do an outstanding job at keeping everyone safe. Covid-19 has made it hard for everyone, but as Ms. Cipollina puts it, “even bad days come to an end. They don’t go on and on.”