How The Career of A Head Nurse Changed Overnight

In March 2020 Kristina Kring saw her job change overnight due to Covid-19. While her role as Head Nurse continues to be unarguably essential at ISB, we asked her to share her experience in these 10 months of countless support to our Community.

How did your role change overnight with the announcement of COVID-19 and the closure of the school in March 2020?

It actually all started before ISB went on February break. Reading about the situation in Asia which was starting to spread to the rest of the world, we decided to form a Crisis Management Team to prepare for what could potentially happen after people had travelled during the break. We were the first school to close in Belgium due to a positive case in our community. Overnight my job changed from being able to assess students/faculty in person, to doing this over the phone or email. The role became 24/7. As the medical system in Belgium started to feel the pressure of Covid, I knew that the more I could take care of, the less amount of people would be seeking help from their General Practitioners who were already overwhelmed.

How do you feel your past experience has prepared you or has not prepare you for this moment?

In my Nursing career I have worked in both adult and pediatric emergency wards so I have had experience in crisis situations and the psychological and emotional impact this can have on people. This is the first time I have worked through a pandemic of this degree, and it has been an interesting and challenging experience. During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 I was working in a clinic in Copenhagen, this was no where close to what I have experienced this past year.

Did you witness an unusual type of anxiety between students, parents, faculty/staff, or was it a similar thread of anxiety?

The anxiety has been about the same throughout but at different levels depending on the age group. Younger students live mostly in the present but can feed off their parents' anxiety. Teenagers want to continue in their social groups and continue their lives as usual. Parents have contacted me at different times of the day to voice their fears and anxieties, but mostly because they needed someone who would listen to them. At this point, it has been very important to stay calm and give the facts they needed to hear before the stress and anxiety escalated.

What procedures did you have to put in place to make students more comfortable during this process? Did you get any guidance?

Usually when speaking to parents/students and providing the facts available at the time and reassuring them that ISB is a safe place to be due to all of the health and hygiene guidelines we have put in place, has had an influence on any anxiety parents/students may be experiencing. I did not get any Covid specific guidance but have learned this from my previous experiences.

At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, Kristina Kring made this video demonstrating to students how to protect themselves and their loved ones against Covid-19.

" One of the biggest challenges has been dealing with the unknown. In March, I never thought we would still be talking about lockdowns in December. The information and guidelines have been constantly changing. Not only have I been keeping track of the Belgian guidelines, but also the new information being presented by the experts. I have been expected to have answers which were not available at the time and this can lead to fear and anxiety among individuals."

How important is it to have a school nurse during a situation like this? (25% of schools in the US do not have a nurse).

How important is it to have a school nurse during a situation like this? (25% of schools in the US do not have a nurse). This will be a biased answer as I believe the nursing profession is so important and that having a school nurse is a vital role, pandemic aside. Having a person with a medical background is extremely beneficial in the situation we have faced. The information that is given to the community needs to be accurate and from reliable sources. During any health crisis, a nurse can both assess and evaluate any students on campus and make the decision on whether or not the student/adult may be a risk to others and should therefore be sent home or whether or not further interventions are needed.

How has this experience changed you as a person and how you do your job now?

This experience has emphasized the importance of working as a team in a crisis situation. I have worked very closely with the heads of divisions and we have been in contact most weekends with Covid related issues. As a person, I have learned to live in the present and appreciate what I have. I have learned the importance of having a hobby/sport which provides a mental break from a difficult situation. I have learned to cherish any time I can spend with friends and family.

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