HELENA — Like many other jobs, school nurses have adapted to help schools meet pandemic restrictions and keep students and staff safe. Being a school nurse during the past year has not been easy.
“It was busy in different ways. For a few months there, when the health department got really behind, we had to do the contact tracing for the schools,” says Francis Leonard, a Helena Public Schools nurse. “It's kind of mellowed out a little bit in the last month or so. That's been nice but then tracking other things with vaccines now."
Ms. Leonard spends her work week contact tracing for multiple schools in Helena while still serving as their nurse. Despite all the work, she felt more was needed, a “reset from the pandemic” as she says.
“We haven't been able to socialize or do some of the things that we normally do, or go to the gym or some of those things. I felt like we needed something to look forward to and a way to take care of ourselves," says Ms. Leonard.
Ms. Leonard created a monthly challenge encouraging the Four Georgians school staff to get into healthy habits. For February 2021, she challenged everyone to work out at least 20 minutes a day. For each day the goal is met, that individual got a point. The most points gets a prize at the end of the month. This daily motivation is having a positive effect on the staff.
“I lost a few pounds and I'm more aware and actually doing more walking because of the encouragement from [Ms. Leonard] and I think it's been really beneficial for me health-wise," says Ann Tilton, a Four Georgians Secretary.
Staff is now encouraging each other in these challenges as it brings a smile in these tough times.
“I think it's something that makes our school so great. We have programs like that to make us be our best self and I feel like this program really helped us do that,” says Erika Sehr, another Four Georgians Secretary. “To just be excited about taking better care of ourselves, which of course helps with stress and helps us through these difficult times."
Ms. Leonard hopes she can get more schools involved in these monthly habits in the future.
For the month of April 2021, Ms. Leonard challenged her co workers to get enough sleep and drink more water each day. Winners got gift cards to Helena-area businesses.