Nurse Houdyshell leads USD 382 fight against COVID-19 into the new year

Courtney Blankenship
Pratt Tribune
USD 382 school nurse, Glenda Houdyshell, RN, pictured in this Pratt Tribune photo from 2013 (when there were no masks and no coronavirus concerns) cares deeply about her students and their safety at school.

When USD 382 students return to school January 4, 2021 after Christmas break, district school nurse Glenda Houdyshell will again be on the front-line, monitoring children and staff for coronavirus symptoms and serving in the eye of the COVID-19 storm in the new year.

Houdyshell, RN, said the district has had to decide on new protocols for checking students and visitors’ temperatures, implementing social distancing and sanitizing guidelines, determining who may enter and remain in buildings, and deciding how to handle the isolation of students who develop symptoms during the school day.

“As a school nurse, my goal is and always has been to promote a healthy and safe learning environment for our students and staff,” Houdyshell said.

At this point in time, the school district’s health protocols will remain the same in the spring semester as they were in the fall.

“The medical professionals are learning more about COVID-19 on a daily basis, and if changes need to be made in our protocols, our district will do what needs to be done to keep everyone safe,” Houdyshell said. “School nurses are continually performing assessments, planning care, performing interventions

and evaluating that care. Those duties remain the same during the pandemic as school nurses continue to give daily medications, take care of mild and more severe injuries and also take care of students with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes.”

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Houdyshell said students now only enter schools through one or two entrances and staff members ensure that students are wearing masks as they enter the building and throughout the day.

“As students enter the buildings, if they appear ill, they are assessed for illness and either sent home or on to their classroom,” Houdyshell said. “Just about every student entering the nurse’s room has their temperature checked.”

Due to the newness of COVID-19 and how much is still being learned about the virus, special precautions have been taken in order to limit exposures to positive cases.

“The school nurse office is often a safe place for students to regroup if stressed or overwhelmed but unfortunately, this year, visits to the nurse’s room are kept to a minimum,” Houdyshell said.

In an effort to reduce exposure, Houdyshell said that curtains separate each cot in the nurse’s office, and any students who feel ill are assessed for symptoms and signs of COVID-19 that may have developed during the school day.

“Based on the findings, a student might go back to class, rest on a cot, or be sent home,” Houdyshell said. “I do worry about making the right decision whenever evaluating a student. What if I send a student back to class and it turns out that student has Covid? I guess that could possibly happen.”

Once a student is sent home, there are protocols based on presentation of symptoms to determine how long the student must remain home before returning to school. If students are quarantined, Houdyshell said designated staff members will reach out to their families to assess symptoms and discuss how school work is going.

“As a nurse we learn about infectious diseases outbreaks, how to perform contact tracing and tracking of symptoms, but I did not ever really imagine that I would be involved in a pandemic of this magnitude during my lifetime,” Houdyshell said. “My education has given me the knowledge base so that I am comfortable in educating others about how the disease is transmitted and how to protect themselves and their families through proper hand-washing, social distancing and sanitizing of surfaces.”

Houdyshell said she has never been positive for COVID-19, nor has she had any family members who have been positive.

"I have tested previously but was negative," Houdyshell said. "I also am planning on getting the first shot in the two-shot vaccination series this week."

When she reads how schools have been handling the pandemic around the country, Houdyshell said she feels that Pratt USD 382 is responding in a ‘smart, reasonable and logical way’ and that the protocols which have been implemented are working.

“Our schools are safe for students to attend in person and are staffed with caring adults who have the best interest of our students in mind,” Houdyshell said.