UNION COUNTY, N.C. — For the first time in history, each school in the Union County Public Schools district has its own nurse.

What You Need To Know

  • For the first time in history, Union County Public Schools has a nurse per school.

  • Amid the pandemic, school nurses are identifying potential COVID-19 cases, contact tracing, and supporting families impacted by COVID-19.

  • The district was able to hire more nurses thanks to the help of federal funding.

According to UCPS School Nurse Supervisor Wendy Nielsen, in the past most elementary schools in the district shared nurses.

Nielsen said the decision to have a nurse per school was COVID-19 driven.

“My understanding is it was the number one request from principals this year to have a nurse in their building to help assist with the requirements that the state put forth,” Nielsen said.

The district was able to fund more nurses with federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Weddington Middle School Nurse Kelly Clark, who has been with the district for five years, said it’s important to have a nurse per school.

“During coronavirus, having a nurse in every school is a wonderful resource for the principal, for the teachers, for the students,” Clark said. “When you are able to educate people on the process, and the protocols, and how things work, it helps reduce the anxiety.”

This school year, she has additional duties, including doing COVID-19 screenings, identifying potential cases, contact tracing with the health department, and supporting families affected by the virus.

“I have been in nursing for about 25 years, and this has been a game changer and very different than any nursing I’ve ever had to do,” Clark said.

Union County Public Schools students in Plan B are attending school twice a week.

“We realize we are going to have cases. That’s probably not avoidable. Our role is more to mitigate those cases and reduce additional exposure,” Clark said.

Clark hopes the trend of keeping one nurse per school continues after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s medications, there's emergency medicines. There are kids who do get sick. There is injuries. All of that needs to be addressed safely and appropriately, and the nurse is the best person to do those things,” Clark said.

Other school districts, such as Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Wake County, and Guilford County, do not currently have full-time nurses at every school. Their nurses are assigned to work at multiple schools.

These districts are in the process of transitioning to in-person learning.