At the end of each shift, Blair’s Director of Health Services, Rosalyn Zamora, RN, follows the same routine. She checks on patients one last time and ensures they have what they need. Oftentimes, she has been on her feet since morning and has earned a rest. On any day during the cold and flu season, Rosalyn and her team have treated about 30 Blair students for acute injuries or illnesses. They have reassured two dozen worried parents and, on a typical day, administered hundreds of doses of medication needed to manage chronic conditions. She and her team have used Blair’s new, onsite PCR Cepheid machine to test for COVID, flu and the RSV virus, often providing students with the cause of their illness within 20 minutes.
While many jobs can be “turned off” when one gets home, Rosalyn finds that patient care continues after her workday ends. While preparing dinner for her family, she often fields calls from parents or specialists needing to coordinate students’ medical care. “My boys are used to me tending to patients at night,” Rosalyn says. “They understand that sick people need care around the clock.”
Rosalyn and her fellow nurses may be a special breed. One of her many committed and capable co-workers, registered nurse Jennifer Lusardi, possesses similar talents for multitasking—as well as a deep reserve of compassion for her patients. For almost a decade, Jennifer worked as an oncology nurse before she signed on for 12 years in Morristown Hospital’s cardiac critical-care unit. When she first considered a position at Blair, Jennifer worried about whether an educational setting would prove to be both challenging and fulfilling. Ten years into her role on campus, Jennifer now says that nothing could be further from the truth. “Once I started here, I realized that working with adolescents is a whole new layer of nursing. It’s everything I didn’t think it would be. Every day is different, and I never know what it’s going to bring.”
We caught up with Rosalyn and Jennifer recently to learn more about Blair’s healthcare team and how these devoted individuals keep our students in top shape.
Q. Tell me a little bit about the healthcare team at Blair. Who takes care of students when they are ill?
A. [Rosalyn] Well, there’s me, plus a team of five full-time registered nurses, seven part-time and per diem nurses, and a visiting doctor who works on site four mornings a week. The health clinic is open 24 hours a day, so we work in three eight-hour shifts, round the clock. If a student gets sick in the middle of the night, we are here to help.
Q. Over the last year, nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic, helping to keep our schools open while simultaneously juggling COVID cases and quarantines. What has that been like?
A. [Jennifer] It can be rough when the volume of students coming in gets high. Especially last year, we really had to multitask and triage to do our best to keep everyone safe.
[Rosalyn] There was a lot to do: managing isolation rooms and contract tracing, administering COVID tests and logging results. Plus taking care of sick students and coordinating getting them home. Keeping up with state and federal guidance might have been the hardest. The guidance is changing all the time. When I look back during the challenging times that we faced, though, we always kept student health and safety a priority and checked in on each other's well being, and I’m really proud of that.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. [Jennifer] When kids are sick, they don’t carry the persona that they take with them on the field or that they put on when they’re with their friends. This is the place that they are just their true selves. This job is not giving out Band-aids and pills. It’s so much deeper than that. It’s about delving deep down and figuring out what’s going on with the student and helping them with it. I love seeing who they really are and figuring out how to help them.
I also like that, when they have recovered, we get to see them at their best—on the court or stage, performing, and that is so rewarding.
Q. What do you find challenging about working in a school’s Health Center?
A. [Rosalyn] Sometimes it’s just getting everyone to understand that, in everything we do, we must not only follow our own protocols for treatment and care, but also New Jersey Department of Health protocols—not just for COVID but for routine care as well. Sometimes, that frustrates students who just want to get back out to class or the field. But we tell them at every turn that we will get them there; sometimes, it just requires a little patience!
Q. What’s your philosophy for treating students?
A. [Jennifer] We try to catch things when they’re small. We don’t have a philosophy of “I saw you on Tuesday, so you must be doing okay.” If a student doesn’t make another appointment, it’s up to me to follow up with them, to make sure their regimen is working. I keep a notebook in my desk, where I keep tabs on the kids. I want to follow up, just like your mom would at home. We treat them as we would our own. Parents are trusting us to delve down deep and figure out what’s going on with their child, and I love doing that.
This holiday season, we are especially grateful to Rosalyn, Jennifer and the entire team at the J. Brooks Hoffman ’36 Health Center for caring for the Blair community with compassion and skill. Please join us in thanking them for their tireless efforts to keep us safe and healthy in 2021 and in wishing them all a wonderful new year!