Haverhill School Nurses, Overwhelmed by COVID-19 Duties, Fear Results and Beg for Relief

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta displays disinfecting wipes at a meeting of the School Committee just as COVID-19-instigated shutdowns were beginning in 2020. (WHAV News file photograph.)

School nurses say they are overwhelmed and becoming burned out as a result of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tiffany Ann Bell, a family engagement nurse, addressed the Haverhill School Committee Thursday saying she and her fellow nurses need some kind of relief.

“Our nurses are exhausted. We’re losing them. They’re getting ill. They are physically ill. They’re mentally exhausted. You know, everyone gets finished with their jobs and goes home, but our nurses are taking their work home because there is not enough time in the day for them to do everything that needs to get done,” she said.

Bell said nurses are afraid they may miss something regarding a student’s health as a result of the increased workload. She told the Committee the biggest problem is the requirement that they continue contact tracing.

“Contact tracing has to stop. It is probably what takes the longest. There’s not enough of us. There’s not enough testers. There’s just not enough,” she explained.

Contact tracing mean identifying—sometimes, days later—everyone an infected person may have been near, how close and for how long.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta did not dispute the assessment, even adding everyone is stretched thin at this point, and she understands the difficulty, but her hands are tied.

“That is a DESE requirement at this point. We are required to contact trace and with our numbers rising and rising, it is a significant burden on our nurses and, yet, I really am not in a position to tell them that they don’t have to follow the guidance and the regulations of the Department of Education,” Marotta said.

Newly elected School Committee Vice Chairman Toni Sapienza-Donais offered a small ray of hope, noting researchers say the Omicron variant appears to be peaking and may begin to recede soon.

Marotta said she hoped so, but added, if the number of cases go up much further, school closings will likely be necessary and those days would have to be made up at the end of the school year.

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