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It's back to school for nurses, too

And they're on the frontlines of COVID uncertainty.

MINNETONKA, Minn. — School nursing is a people-people kind of job.

"This is my wheelhouse, my passion, my heart," Annie Lumbar Bendson said. "My everything."

For nearly 25 years, Annie Lumbar Bendson gave her heart to the wellness of kids.

Right now, she's the director of health services at Minnetonka Public Schools.

"We often say you never know if you're going to be that one person that one student needs, that they trust at the school that they can go to is their person," she said. "That they might be struggling – anxious and not feeling well but they know if they walk into that health office, it's a safe space."

Providing that space remains unchanged despite the pandemic.

What has changed though, is that these school nurse are being pushed, pretty darn hard.

"We are fortunate here in our community that we are fully staffed, we have an amazing team of nurses and health paras but that's not true in every single district," Lumbar Bendson said. "And in outstate Minnesota it's even more of a challenge."

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Lumbar Bendson said there is a certain number of nurses-to-student ratio that's recommended.

"Not a mandate, but a recommendation that for every 750 students you have one school nurse," she said. "I think as school nurses we're a resourceful group, we make do with what's at hand, but that's relying on each other and school teams. It certainly can be challenging because we don't always have the resources that we need."

That and the break-neck speed at which things are moving, are peppering the career with challenges.

"I think there is a certain amount of apprehension because right now we have the delta variant, but it's that apprehension of what's next?" Lumbar Bendson said. "What's the variant behind it and what does that look like? Is this going to be more difficult than the delta variant, there's a certain amount of what's next and how are we going to approach that?"

Knowing this, as any healthcare professional would, Lumbar Bendson says she's going back to the basics.

"Since the beginning of this, we've focused on really our job and responsibility is to care for ourselves because we really would be remiss if we didn't do that first," she said. "We often say, if you are going to give from an empty bucket you're not going to have much to give."

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