A conversation with RCS District nurses

Here’s the second segment of the district’s web series to honor our school nurses and the work they continue to provide our school community. Today’s edition features two Registered Nurses in the RCS District. We are proud to introduce Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary Registered Nurse Ms. Battenfeld and RCS Float Nurse Ms. Doane.

Both nurses continue to work to provide our parents and caregivers, along with our students, the guidance needed to stay healthy and safe in the RCS District.

How did you first enter the nursing field?

Battenfeld: I started my nursing career in my early 30’s.  I worked at Danbury Hospital for two years on the surgical services floor.  I then transitioned to school nursing.  I worked for over ten years for the Millbrook Central School District in Dutchess County. I recently moved to the Albany area to be closer to my two grandchildren and was fortunate to be hired at Pieter B. Coeymans last year.

Doane: After graduating from RCS in 1981, I attended Plattsburgh State University and studied nursing. I graduated in 1985 and started my nursing career at Albany Medical Center Hospital in the neonatal intensive care unit. I have been a pediatric nurse my entire career, and this is my 14th year working as a school nurse at RCS.

How has COVID-19 impacted our school community?

Battenfeld: This is a very complicated question. It has affected every aspect of our school community. We have had to adapt to an ever changing environment. The entire staff has worked very hard to manage the daily challenges that have been faced during this pandemic to ensure that our students have a safe and healthy learning environment.

Doane: COVID-19 has impacted our school community on nearly every level. The students and staff have adjusted to a shortened instructional day, remote learning, wearing masks and social distancing, building changes, daily attestations, evolving guidelines from the DOH, the loss of sports and clubs, eating in classrooms, positive COVID-19 cases, and the general loss of social connection that defines community. 

What’s your role as a nurse in the PBC Elementary School?

Battenfeld: I am responsible for providing health services to the students and staff at Pieter B.  A school nurse’s role varies from day to day and I have found that is very important to be organized, as well as flexible.  I oversee the physical, emotional and mental health needs of our students and staff.  I perform vision, hearing and other health screenings throughout the school year. I develop care plans for students with ongoing medical conditions.  I consult with teachers, administrators and other school staff regarding students care. I administer medications. I complete mandated NYS surveys regarding immunization and BMI status.  I educate students and staff about a variety of health issues and treatments.  

Doane: My role as a district float nurse is to support the building nurses as needed. School nurses provide care for students with chronic illnesses, triage injuries and health emergencies of students and staff, track communicable diseases, promote healthy behaviors, and connect families with insurance and healthcare providers. School nurses track immunizations, document physicals, and perform screenings as required by NYS. RCS school nurses collaborate with the school physician, state and local health departments, and the school community to promote a safe and healthy school environment. We are also integral team members—providing information and attending meetings such as IST, CSE, CRT, 504, and parent/teacher meetings. RCS nurses provide CPR courses for our coaches and staff and organize an annual flu clinic. In addition, I am the nurse administrator of our electronic health records software program.

What important items should parents know regarding COVID-19 in today’s schools?

Battenfeld: The guidelines that we are following are frequently updated by the Albany County and NYS Departments of Health.  The nurses in the district meet weekly with Dr. Bailey and are working very hard, with the help of the school administration, to provide you with the most up-to-date information.  We appreciate that parents have been so understanding during this challenging time.

Doane: It is important for parents to know that guidelines for schools regarding COVID-19 are constantly evolving, and we are in almost daily contact with the Albany County DOH. We are working hard to remain educated on the trends of this pandemic, as well as the guidelines we must follow. We understand that this is a confusing time for parents and we are happy to answer questions and offer support.

At the end of the day, what enables you to be proud of the support you provide at RCS?

Battenfeld: I see the students at Pieter B thriving.  All of our students have adapted amazingly well to wearing masks during the day.  I am very grateful to be working with the incredible staff at PBC while we are all learning how to navigate this new environment. 

Doane: I am proud to work with this wonderful group of nurses. They come to work every day ready to care for the physical, emotional, and social needs of their students. They are available to students, parents, and staff to answer questions, offer guidance, and provide the important bridge between healthcare and education needed for our students to be successful on every level.

Any additional health information you would like to provide district families?

Battenfeld: Please be aware that physical exams and immunizations are still required.  NYS has waived screening for the 20-21 school year.  However, if a parent has any question or concerns about their child’s health please feel free to contact me.  Thank you for your continued support and cooperation.

Doane: I would like parents to know that the students attending school in-person are doing very well. I am in awe of their resilience in adapting to this whole new way of approaching the school day. I credit parents for preparing the children during this difficult time, coupled with all the planning of teachers, administrators, and the hard work of our COVID-19 school opening committees.