The Relentless School Nurse: Let’s Get Political: If Not Now, When?

By Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN posted 14 days ago



SchoolNurseNet has been filled with fascinating discussion threads over the last few weeks.  One, in particular, caught my eye because of this subject line: RE: Non-Political Post on Mass Shootings in Schools: The Worst Possible Case for Gun Control. I appreciate and respect the views that have been shared, while I may not agree, these are conversations that matter.

I am writing this post, with the disclaimer that I will be political, this is too personal for me. As I have shared, my niece is a student at Stoneman Douglas and hid in a closet for 2 hours with her teacher and classmates until the SWAT team released them to safety. While she was hiding, I was on the phone with my sister, who was waiting outside the zone of the crime scene, frantic and distraught.  Standing next to my sister, was a mom, whose daughter was not in touch with her, not texting her mom and was not answering her phone.  Later that awful night, my sister texted me, that the mom she was standing with, the one whose daughter was not texting her, received the worst of all news, her precious daughter was one of the 17 victims killed that day.

This is political, and I cannot apologize. As school nurses, we can raise our voices in protest, in activism and advocacy. We, as school nurses, bring compassion to our every-day contacts with those that we serve. We are good people. Caring people. And intelligent people. Why let the opportunity of the most recent, and senseless, mass school shooting goes unaddressed, causing it to become another statistic. A footnote.  To quote an often-used phrase, if not now, when?

Maybe the issue is finding ways to have civil conversations or at least better conversations about gun control, mental health, the broken educational system, the broken healthcare system, to name a few hot topics. Nurses are lauded for our compassion, our listening skills, our position as the “most trusted profession.” But do we apply those “soft skills” to our relationships with each other? A scan of SchoolNurseNet’s recent discussion threads leads me to conclude that it might be time for some self-reflection on conversational competence.

I turned to Google and did a search using this phrase: “How to have better political conversations” I came across this very helpful and popular (10,591,312 views) Ted Talk by Celeste Headlee:

There are many takeaways from this important Ted Talk.  One quote summed up the issue succinctly: “Conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.” The statement rings so true in this era of heated political discourse. Imagine a world where conversational competence was a shared value.  While my “lived experience” clearly informs my position on the hot topic of gun control, I will strive to be more mindful and implement the lessons of conversational competence.  

In addition to engaging in these important conversations, consider joining the #SchoolNursesDemandAction grassroots movement that is activating colleagues across social media. Please consider sharing your responses to the Advocacy & Action you are or will be participating in the coming weeks. Our students and children are watching. 








8 days ago

Thank you for raising this important point -- if creating the change our students so desperately need is being "political", then so be it. We must approach this issue as the public health issue that it is. If any disease had suddenly killed as many students as we have seen die from mass shootings and other forms of gun violence, we would be up in arms and demanding research and guidance on how to prevent future "outbreaks". This should be no different. Thank you, again, for bringing awareness to this.
I promise to view this TedTalk. This might provide a key of hope in all of this political insanity! So often I scream and raise a fist (I’ll be honest, a finger) to the person speaking on the TV screen. Too many issues are not being addressed, but as School Nurses I agree we must open our compassionate minds and listen and learn and speak and offer support. It would be on my conscience to remain silent and pretend I’m not part of the solution.
I feel compelled to at list post this:  I met the school nurse who was at Sandy Hook that terrible day. Sobering, humbling, and no way not to be political.Whether it is the difficult question to ask parents about mental illness symptoms in their children, or standing strong for what we believe makes students safer-we can't just stand-we must react in some way.  Have the conversations.