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Carroll’s school-based nurses innovate at UCC Health Center amid pandemic

“It’s not just Band-Aids and ice packs,” says Pam Ziolkowski, RN (Registered Nurse), manager for the School-Based Health Center in the United Community Center (UCC). “School nurses are much more than that.”

Ziolkowski is a school-based nurse at the UCC, which hosts a collaborative partnership between Carroll University and Bruce Guadalupe Community Schools. She treats students from a holistic standpoint, acknowledging the many dimensions of health in a school setting.

Sonia Pacheco, RN, works alongside Ziolkowski to serve approximately 1,800 elementary and middle school students. Many students that Ziolkowski and Pacheco treat have chronic illnesses, like asthma and diabetes, along with other disorders, which fall under the category of mental and behavioral health. Pacheco says that school nurses deliver crucial health and wellness information that would otherwise not be communicated to students’ parents or their primary care doctors.

However, since the onset of COVID-19, both Ziolkowski and Pacheco felt their focus shift dramatically, leaving little room for the provision of typical levels of care. In just one week, they received 700 phone calls from concerned parents.

Like countless other healthcare professionals, the nurses needed to pivot their focus to COVID-19, and at the same time learn a new operating system so that they could create electronic health records to fit their community needs. Ziolkowski and Pacheco also were required to attend virtual contact tracing classes from Johns Hopkins University to become certified COVID-19 contact tracers for the UCC.

The UCC School-Based Health Center also serves as a clinical placement site for nursing students, where they can learn about a school-based RN role and skills needed in a school setting. The UCC also is home to Carroll’s new Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program, which helps underrepresented students become an RN in less than two years.