McCallie is fortunate to have a modern Student Health Center with a 10-bed infirmary and large nursing staff to serve its student body, faculty, staff, and campus community. The McCallie nursing and medical staff are dedicated to supporting every boy’s health physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Under the supervision of school physician, Dr. Jack McCallie ’75, McCallie nurses promote health and wellness by caring for daily illnesses and injuries, assisting students who are managing chronic health conditions, overseeing student health information, identifying community health resources, and preparing for health emergencies. The coronavirus pandemic has certainly been a health emergency like no other. During the COVID-19 pandemic, McCallie nurses and medical staff have shown heroic leadership and diligence in managing the health and safety of the school community. As conditions continue to improve, they found time to share some reflections.
What were some of the biggest challenges you all faced in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?
Calming fears and educating the community were ongoing challenges over this past year. Information about COVID-19 was often confusing and conflicting. It was changing all the time. The media coverage created a lot of anxiety among the McCallie community. Updating ourselves and then sharing the most current information with students, parents, and the school community was difficult. Keeping the Student Health Center staff healthy was also a challenge. Trying to care for yourself, your family, and each member of the school community is a lot. Taking proper precautions and remaining compliant with all the guidelines, even as they were changing so frequently, gave us a solid game plan. The health and safety of the McCallie community was always top of mind for all of us.
How did you all stay abreast of the constantly changing conditions and current information about COVID-19?
Keeping up with the newest information took a lot of vigilance from everyone on our staff. Daily, sometimes multiple times a day, we would check for updates from the Hamilton County Health Department, the State of Tennessee Department of Health, the CDC, and the World Health Organization. We also read updates in professional journals. With varying backgrounds, our nursing staff had access to different perspectives and information that we would scour and share with each other. Our director talked frequently with the Student Health Center’s medical advisors as well as other local physicians. We assessed new information to see what aspects of our health and safety protocols needed to be revised. Throughout the whole pandemic, we strived relentlessly to give our students, parents, and community members the most accurate information possible.
What do you feel were some of the biggest successes over the last year?
We have had a lot of successes over the course of this pandemic. First of all, our training has been a big source of success for us. As medical professionals, we all learned to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. This mindset and relying as a team on our training and experience has kept us calm. In turn, being calm and cool-headed has allowed us to professionally educate and reassure students, parents, and community members, helping them with anxieties regarding COVID-19. Another success for us during this pandemic has been consistent communication. We have kept the community regularly informed and updated. Lastly, that we were set up early to perform COVID-19 testing on campus, allowing us to test the student body, faculty, and staff multiple times, was key to our remaining in school on campus throughout the year. The testing that we have done was a huge undertaking and that, along with careful contact tracing, was very important in helping us identify and prevent community outbreaks.
Regarding McCallie’s community health, what health and safety practices do you see continuing long after the COVID-19 pandemic is a daily threat?
We will continue to see health education as a priority. We have seen first-hand that information and education regarding healthy practices makes a solid difference. Reliable information and education is critical to supporting the mental wellbeing of every community member. Another important aspect of the pandemic that will stay with us is the importance of an empathetic and bonded community. The stress of the pandemic made previously unnoticed cracks visible. In this community, saying how we felt and supporting one another through hardship was prevalent. That the community openly showed its caring nature made it possible for students and adults alike to feel comfortable asking for help. Two simple things that we think will be more important than ever are hand hygiene and socializing outside. The availability of outdoor seating has been a great way to encourage boys to talk, hang out, and get some vitamin D.
What have you all learned about yourselves, your team, and the McCallie community?
Our goal coming into this school year was the health and safety of anyone who entered this campus. Our staff truly became a solid unit intent on reaching this goal. We supported and encouraged each other. Everyone worked together to be available for our community during holidays. We all pitched in to work extra hours and school breaks, and even took “call” when we were off work. We sacrificed for each other and for the school we love. We learned that we could do hard things which at times seemed practically impossible – and that we could do them well. Parents, faculty, and staff encouraged us all along the way. Sometimes, it was just a quick comment at the end of a phone call, or a note of encouragement and thanks, or even sending yummy treats to us at the health center. All of the big and little gestures sustained us. Everyone at the health center played an instrumental role in the success of this year. We have a great team and a great leader. We learned to believe in our abilities as a team and to believe in each other. We are bonded by the experiences we shared over the past year, and are equipped to face future challenges.
Kristen Smith, RN
Lisa Hobbs, RN
Keely Barron, RN
Rose Afman, LPN
Amanda Williams, RN
Wendy Bailey, LPN
Debbie Delashmitt, RN
Jana Humble, RN
Anna Frances Oellerich, RN
Ted Headlee, Office Manager
On-Call Nursing Staff
Linda Dacus, RN
Shelby Carroll, LPN
Megan Lott, RN
Leslie Franklin, RN
Joy Lannae, RN
Alli Jurma, RN
Katie Kokko, RN
April Bryant, RN
Immunization Policy Revised to Include COVID-19 Vaccinations
Joining hundreds of top independent schools, colleges, and universities across the country, McCallie has revised its immunization policy to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of required immunizations for the 2021–22 school year. The policy will allow classes to be held without students and faculty wearing masks and observing social distancing protocols that have been in place the past year and a half. McCallie will grant exceptions to the COVID-19 immunization requirement for medical, religious, moral, and ethical reasons. On-campus clinics were held in the spring, and Students Health Services staff said that already the vast majority of students have received vaccines. Faculty and staff are also required to be fully vaccinated for the 2021–22 school year.