NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The mother on the other end of the phone was practically panicked about her child, who suffering with a rash but would have to wait three months for an appointment with a pediatrician.

With nowhere else to turn, the mother had sent photos of the afflicted area to Marilyn Crawford, the nurse at New Brunswick High School and the head nurse for the school district.

“Once I was able to see what the rash looked like,” Crawford said, “I then knew that this child needed additional medical help. There was nothing she could do at home to resolve the problem.”

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The exchange got Crawford to thinking: What if there was a way for the nurses of New Brunswick’s 13 schools could interface with students and parents. Even with students learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, could they still provide the same services as if the district’s 10,300 or so students were in their classrooms?

Crawford’s lightbulb moment has resulted in the Virtual Nurses Office that has utilizing teleconference technology to bring parents and students together with New Brunswick school nurses. Four nurses are assigned to man the Virtual Nurses Office from Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon. They use their expertise to provide important medical help, even if they cannot be in the same room.

It’s just another reminder of those health care heroes among us as Americans commemorate National Nurses Day today.

“The district nurses are very concerned about their students and they miss them tremendously,” Crawofrd said. “They’re aware of their students who have underlying health issues as well as their families. So being there for them is our ultimate mission and letting them know that we are still around. So even though they can't come into our offices, physically, they can visit us virtually. And that was pretty much what the concept of the Virtual Nurses Office is all about.”

Crawford and the other nurses have been paying an especially close watch on those students who have contracted the coronavirus.

“If they do make contact with their health care provider or they do go to the emergency room, they're kind of sent home and told that they if it's related to COVID-19, they need to just quarantine for 14 days,” Crawford said. “But it can be a little scary because the symptoms are always changing with COVID. Some people have mild symptoms. So, it's a way where we can connect with them and let them know if they have reached the point where they need to return to the emergency room.”

A link to the Virtual Nurses Office is available on the school district’s website.