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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Murphy ready to mobilize school nurses to help with coronavirus epidemic

Governor: ‘All hands on deck’

By David Wildstein, March 22 2020 7:20 pm

More than 2,500 school nurses across the state could be called back into service to help New Jersey officials deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy said today.

Murphy said that school nurses, all of whom have registered professional nurse licenses, could be called up to participate in a medical reserve corps, “which we are aggressively pursuing.”

“All hands on deck,” Murphy said.

School nurses have been off since New Jersey public schools began closing more than a week ago and are not involved in distance learning, although many of them

“School nurses are on the list,” said state Commissioner of Health Judy Persichilli.  “We’re looking into just about everything.”

Nurses are ready to step up and do whatever is needed to help the state through the crisis, Essex County School Nurses Association president Daria Napolitano told the New Jersey Globe.

“You won’t have any resistance from nurses,” she said, noting that many school nurses have been in close contact with local health departments since the onset of coronavirus.  “We’re nurses, we just happen to be in a school setting.”

According to Napolitano, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo sent school nurses a letter asking for help with staffing a testing site.

“Almost all of the nurses I work with volunteered,” Napolitano said.

Assembly Minority Conference Leader Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), the only registered nurse in the legislature, said she’s ready for the call.

“I’m fully licensed.  I would be happy to volunteer,” Munoz said. “Put me someplace where I can do some good.”

As New Jersey begins to cancel elective surgeries, Munoz said that state needs to “redeploy our health care workers.”

“In preparation for that, we need to get them ready,” Munoz noted.  “If you’re licensed and registered and able and willing to do so, you should be utilized.”

Persichilli said the state is also looking to use students who are in their final semester of college who can earn their last credits by helping the state fight the spread of COVID-19.

Murphy said the medical reserve corps is looking at fast-tracking state certification for medical professionals licensed in another state, as well as retired workers.

The option of specifically calling up New Jersey National Guard members who are physicians, nurses and licensed health care workers is also on the table, Murphy said.

Murphy announced that he and chief of staff George Helmy raised medical staffing issues specifically within the Department of Defense in a call with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Friday.  .

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