New London

New London School Nurses Working at Hospital COVID-19 Testing Site

The nurses are trading in school hallways for the front lines of testing for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

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As testing for COVID-19 continues to become more available across the state, there is an increased need for healthcare workers to help conduct the tests. In New London, school nurses are helping to fill the void.

"This is very different," said Jayne Hill, a school nurse who is now working at Yale New Haven Health's Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. "I have never done anything like this before."

Hill is a school nurse at C.B. Jennings Elementary School in New London. Maureen Basler is a school nurse at Winthrop Elementary. With schools closed and school nurses laid off, they are both now working at the Lawrence and Memorial Hospital COVID-19 drive-thru testing site as temporary workers.

"It is great to do something useful. We are lucky," said Basler. "The first day I was scared because I did not want to bring any germs home to my family, but I felt like I had a good orientation. They are careful with us. I am comfortable.”

Both Basler and Hill said they pushed through any apprehension because they knew their skills could help on the front lines of the pandemic.

The hospital trained the nurses and provides them with protective gear from head to toe. Their body is fully covered when they have to make contact with a patient. They also wear respirator masks that filter the air that they breathe.

According to the Associate Chief Medical Officer of Lawrence and Memorial Hospital Kevin Torres, about 200 people have been tested at the drive-thru site since the site opened last Tuesday. Five patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

They are now able to test about 40 patients a day at the L&M drive-thru site. Torres said that about 100 tests are pending at any time.

"We are trying to prioritize our healthcare workers and our inpatient as well to make sure we have tests available to test them," said Torres.

Torres stressed that if you are feeling symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath or a cough, you should call a primary care physician.

"Not just because you are concerned about it. Everyone is concerned and we understand that, but we want to test the folks that are symptomatic and then give you the best information we can," said Torres.

Basler said she tested several healthcare professionals last week and tried to offer them calm.

“There was this one little nurse the first day I worked and I said I hope you feel better and she started to cry," said Basler. "I felt so bad, but I knew I made her feel better in a way."

The patients may be older than the school nurses are used to, the uniform is definitely different, but the reason behind their work remains the same.

"Just doing my job as a nurse- taking care of people," said Hill.

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