NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The head nurse for the New Brunswick school district said she has volunteered to help if needed on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
Marilyn Crawford said she and the dozen or so other nurses in the district have been asked by the state if they would be willing to leave their posts to help.
It isn’t clear at what point they would be needed, but the possibility of using school nurses has been mentioned more than once over the past few weeks by Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. In fact, retired nurses and nursing students who’ve yet to graduate are also being called on by the New Jersey State Nurses Association.
“They did send out a survey requesting those who might be interested in volunteering, because I think they're going to try to do it through a voluntary process first,” Crawford said. “And I actually did submit my name for that.
“Several of the school nurses have submitted their names, but we just as a district would have to figure out how with that look, because we are still needed to be a support to our guests. And then if we are then called to volunteer, how would that look? So that's something we would have to look to see how, how that could happen, where we would be able to, I guess, provide the service that we need for.”
Murphy announced Thursday there were 2,492 new COVID-19 cases in the state, including 19 deaths. The total number of positive cases in New Jersey is at 6,876 and the death toll is up to 81.
According to information released by officials in Middlesex County, six of the 154 new cases in the county are New Brunswick residents.
Crawford said no staff member or student in the district has tested positive for COVID-19.
Crawford’s extensive experience was vital as the school district began to prepare to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crawford knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was in high school, and after graduating from Rutgers, she went to work at United and Beth Israel hospitals in Newark. When a fired displaced her, her husband, Jerome, and their two children, she took a job in the New Brunswick school district because it gave her some flexibility to stay home with her children.
At the end of the school year, the principal offered her a full-time position and she's been here ever since.
Now, some 20 years later, she was one of the most important figures as the district ramped up to meet the coming pandemic. Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, she helped the district formulate its response plan. She was responsible for the infection control component.
As the COVID-19 cases spread in the state and public awareness became heightened, Superintendent Aubrey Johnson continued to turn to Crawford for guidance.
“I am pretty much what the, I guess, would considered the health officer for the district, right,” she said. “So when any decisions needed to be made or policies or procedures needed to be added or changed, they would always consult with me. I am actively part of the New Brunswick Board of Education Pandemic Committee. I conference with the team every day - actually, I just finished a conference call. And then I will give my recommendations. If they have questions, they will ask me during these meetings, or as time that we decide whether we need to change anything, or tighten up on anything.
“So, I would have to say, you know, Dr. Johnson has been very open to my thoughts, my recommendations, and now the whole team has been very supportive.”
Crawford said that her experience of running the emergency room at Beth Israel might come in handy if she’s called upon to help at one of New Brunswick’s medical facilities or at one of the field hospitals being built by FEMA.
“Although I do have ICU and ER experience, it's been years since I've been in that type of setting,” she said. “And I'm guessing with a little training, it wouldn't take a whole lot for me to get back to it. But things have changed quite a bit. But I'm quite sure they would probably definitely assign me a duty that I could perform without jeopardizing my nursing license.”