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Springfield district nurses among those to receive public health award

Springfield nurses receive award

Nurses in the Springfield School District were publicly honored Tuesday for their work following a recent outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.  

The outbreak affected hundreds of area students and others.

The group of Springfield Public School nurses, as well as nurses in the Eugene School District and a nurse at the Lane County Jail were presented with the Excellence in Public Health award at a ceremony held by the Lane County Board of Commissioners.

The public health award is given each year to local people and organizations who have contributed to public health and quality of life within Lane County. This is the fourth year the award has been presented, according to Lane County Health and Human Services spokesman Jason Davis who said the nurses were ‘overwhelmingly’ nominated by public health officials to receive the award.

“With the pertussis outbreak, the schools were our biggest partner and point of contact during and after the investigation and around immunizations,” Davis said.

Tanya Martin, a registered nurse at the Springfield Public Schools Health Center at Springfield High School, said that receiving the award was great affirmation that her team does great work.

It’s a huge honor to be recognized by public health,” Martin said. “I really enjoyed working with them last spring despite, the circumstance, they were really professional and helpful and great to partner with.”

Martin, who served as the main point of contact with the county during the outbreak said the district healthcare team is made up of five nurses, one health services secretary and several health aids that are stationed at every school in the district.

“We really got to use our public health nursing skills and it was a lot different than the work that we typically get to do,” she said. “We got to use our training in epidemiology and track the spread of illness by doing some investigative work. We really felt like we were trying to help stop the spread of pertussis.”

Martin said the incident also allowed her and the rest of the staff to build relationships with Lane County Public Health employees and officials.

“Now I know them well and can use them as a resource,” Martin said. “It’s not that we wished for an outbreak, but it was a good experience.”

At an awards ceremony at Harris Hall in downtown Eugene on Tuesday, Martin and several Eugene School District nurses gathered to receive their individual plaques and Lane County Public Health Nurse Supervisor Cindy Morgan offered a few words.

“The communicable disease team worked in partnership with school nurses to limit the spread of pertussis,” Morgan said. “They were responsive, collaborative and even cheerful during the outbreak which started in February 2018 and lasted until October.”

Morgan said there were 185 confirmed cases, 42 presumed cases and 47 suggested cases in Lane County over the course of the outbreak.

“School nurses were always on the frontline talking with parents, students and school staff and keeping us updated,” Morgan said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this without them and we thank them.”

Last year’s award recipients included CAHOOTS and AnaMaria Dudley of the South Lane School District Family Resource Center. The award ceremony takes place in April to coincide with National Public Health Week which took place April 1 through April 7.