Do not fear, the nurse is here


Gabriella Bomjardim

Bonita Vista High’s (BVH) new nurse Bernadette Currin works in her office after being hired post-pandemic.

Brandon Giles, Staff Artist

On Nov. 4, former Hilltop High nurse Bernadette Currin was welcomed at Bonita Vista High’s (BVH) facilities as the new nurse. The absence of a permanent nurse at BVH allowed for Currin’s employment. She mentioned that BVH was an easy commute for her and her children. 

As the school nurse, Currin cares for and treats students by providing necessary first aid and helps students with medical needs. She is in charge of keeping track of the immunization records of students she makes certain that students are up to date with their vaccinations. Currin has noticed that the number of students going to the nurse’s office have increased since previous years.

“People don’t realize there’s a lot of kids with diabetes, experience seizures and have special needs. Students are coming to school with a lot more health needs—it’s not just the band aids and ice packs anymore.” Currin said.

Currin must earn a general bachelor’s degree in order to be the school’s nurse. Afterward, she must get a registered nurse license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination; this ensures that nurses, in general, meet standards for safe and effective practices.

“We do try to get [nurses] who have some experience [with nursing]. [Due to] the [new] job requirements, we’ve been [resorting to] new graduates because [we know they] are alone,” District Resource Nurse and Program Manager for Student Services Lynnette Martinez said. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many school nurses left the Sweetwater Union High School District leading to a district-wide nurse shortage. BVH’s previous nurse and Paradise Valley Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse Paola Garcia believed that she could be more helpful and available to other facilities where she could treat patients during the ongoing pandemic.

“[Garcia] already worked in the ICU at Paradise Valley Hospital. She [worked in the ICU and at BVH] for a long time so when the pandemic hit, she took a leave since we [nurses] weren’t really being utilized [at schools],” Martinez said.

Within time, there was no nurse at BVH so Martinez had temporarily filled the role. She knew that a higher BVH student population would lead to a higher demand for a nurse. Martinez commented that supports both BVH’s assistant principals and the student body as a whole through her work as a nurse.

According to BVH Principal Roman Del Rosario Ed.D., BVH had been going through a “merry-go-round” of different nurse substitutes. In turn, finding a permanent nurse was only a massive relief for the entire staff.

“Particularly the assistant principals were impacted the most. A lot of the work that the nurses do around contact tracing and communicating with staff about COVID-19 falls on the assistant principals when [the school] doesn’t have a stable nurse,” Del Rosario said “So it’s made [the general workflow] a world of a difference for everyone here in the main office.”

Along with causing a shortage of nurses, COVID-19 brought more challenges for school nurses. Students have been found going to school despite experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms.Therefore, more students could be infected by the virus and cause a rapid spread of the disease. 

“People [are] coming to school still sick even though they’re supposed to be screening [at-home], exposing [COVID-19 to] other people. So [students coming in with COVID-19 symptoms] has been a big challenge because that puts a lot of other people at risk,” Currin said.

I love being at Bonita and it has been very special. ”

— Bonita Vista High (BVH) nurse Bernadette Currin

With the COVID-19 guidelines put in place by the SUHSD’s medical director, the nurses are restricted with what they can and cannot do. As a result, nurses can have a tough time diagnosing and treating students with the limited resources that they have.

“There are certain things that the nurses are able to do based on their licenses, but they’re not permitted based on their job description or the guidelines from a district,” Del Rosario said. “For instance, nurses are no longer allowed to administer medications to students.”

Despite these setbacks, Currin strives to work effectively to ensure that the needs of students are met despite internal and external issues that they may face. She hopes for  students to come to her office and feel safe talking to her.

“[Being a nurse] is what I do. I take care of everybody else. That’s always been my thing, whether it’s taking care of my own kids or taking care of the other kids. I love being at Bonita and it has been very special,” Currin said.