School nurses and administrators face a challenging summer as they prepare for schools to reopen. To ensure safety measures are properly met, administrators and teachers must work to build and adopt school policies to keep students and faculty healthy and safe. Applying effective infection prevention practices on campus will play a critical role in minimizing the spread of infection.
Existing school safety and infectious disease procedures should be revisited and revised to incorporate important data and guidelines put forth by the CDC and local health officials. Cooperation from students and faculty will be imperative as school staff work to comply with state and local regulations to help stop the spread of infection on campus.
This article aims to give school administrators and nursing staff a place to start to ensure their campus has the infrastructure they need to prevent the spread of disease — and the buy-in from students, faculty and families needed in order to make reopening successful.
Student and Staff Behaviors to Help Limit the Spread
Personal prevention tactics, including handwashing and staying home when sick as well as environmental behaviors, such as cleaning and disinfecting common areas and proper ventilation must be implemented to help limit the spread as schools reopen. To ensure this happens, schools will need to be prepared to provide for the following concerns.
It will be important for schools to reinforce proper handwashing techniques with staff and students. To do so, schools must have adequate supplies to encourage this behavior, including soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (if soap and water are not available).
Signs and Messaging
To reinforce the messages and behaviors that can help prevent the spread, the CDC recommends that schools post signs in very visible locations to promote proactive measures like hand washing and social distancing measures. Schools should provide physical guides and signage to ensure that students and staff maintain proper social distancing while walking in the hallways, in lines and at other times during the day. Schools should create digital and physical signage to remind students to remain socially distant from one another.
Leveraging a message system like Primex OneVue Notify InfoBoard displays are an excellent way to communicate messages to every corner of your campus at once. In addition to displaying general messaging and critical notifications in emergency situations , these InfoBoards can help cut through the noise and visual clutter in classrooms and hallways to effectively deliver crucial messages to help prevent the spread of disease.
Environmental Behaviors to Limit the Spread
Several strategies will be necessary to maintain a healthy school environment. These practices should include the following:
- Cleaning and Disinfecting Common Areas. The CDC recommends that schools implement best practices while cleaning and disinfecting common areas and frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and drinking fountains. The school should create a schedule for routine disinfecting of these areas and the reopening plan should include the proper methods to store cleaning products safely.
- Ventilation. To reduce the spread of respiratory droplets into the air, the reopening plan should include the proper ventilation of the school building. Outdoor air should circulate as much as possible through ventilation systems. Inside, schools should make use of indoor temperature and humidity sensors to ensure the climate is optimized to prevent the spread of disease.
How School Nurses can prepare for Reopening
Establishing Isolation Areas
School nurses should establish isolation areas for students and staff that may exhibit infectious disease symptoms during school hours. As school nurses turn areas into isolation rooms, utilizing environmental monitoring solutions can help schools to comply with environmental standards and policies set forth by the CDC and local health officials. Pairing sensors with a software solution like Primex OneVue Monitor provides alerts when temperature, pressure, humidity, and other environmental levels are out of range, allowing nursing staff to easily ensure compliance even when they are away from their office.
Utilizing the Proper PPE
School nurses should ensure that the school has the proper PPE equipment prior to reopening. The CDC offers recommendations on what equipment that could be beneficial for healthcare staff. These include:
- N95 Surgical masks vs. cloth masks which will be determined based on social distancing efforts
- NASN Facemask consideration
- Gowns — use of cloth covering as an alternative option
Ample Storage for Vaccines and Medications
As more is learned about the proper ways to treat infections diseases, it will be important for school nurses to expand storage for vaccines and medications as schools reopen. Antibody/antigen testing and vaccine administration may take place at schools. It will be important the school nurses implement guidelines on the proper storing of cleaning solutions and medications — this will include augmenting temperature monitoring solutions with digital solutions.
Infection Control Management: The New Normal
School administrators and school nurses are facing an uphill battle as we deal with the rapid spread of infectious diseases across the world. As the doors reopen, schools will be instrumental in helping to keep their communities healthy and will play a large role in preventing the spread of infection. To break the chain of infection, schools will need to be up to date on cleaning procedures, hygiene measures, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
School nurses and administrators will need to adapt to the current climate to keep staff and students safe and healthy. According to the National Association of School Nurses, part of the school reopening plan should include the adoption of quality improvement and data collection policies to comply with state and federal regulations.
The Primex OneVue system provides a holistic solution to help keep students and staff safe and healthy. The OneVue Monitor system helps to simplify administration and monitoring by easily producing data and reports so that administrators can adhere to state and federal regulations.
For additional information about how you can implement the OneVue System on your campus to help protect your school from a possible outbreak, visit https://www.primexinc.com/education.