Pandemic Professionals: District nurse Gaillard takes on new responsibilities

Gaillard focuses on implementing safety procedures during hybrid learning

Pandemics spawn problems in a workplace, especially if you’re a health care professional, but so far none that RBUSD School District nurse Catherine Gaillard hasn’t been able to overcome. In March of last year she went into quarantine like the rest of the district, but almost a year later she has stayed strong in providing health services for the district and, by extension, the community.

“It’s an exciting time to be a public healthcare professional,” Gaillard said. “My work has ramped up and normally [my job] would include health in an educational environment and also for the public, but now it’s more focused on the public. For me, it’s exciting that the public health aspect of my job has been magnified so much due to the pandemic.”

A district nurse serves as a health service provider to the RBUSD School District, including RUHS, in different ways. Some of these services include being in schools, treating kids if needed, and coordinating responses at the district office to different health related issues that could affect students and staff.

“Right now I feel less safe going to the grocery store than I do being at work,” Gaillard said. “I work in an office with three other nurses, and we’re all socially distanced and working with masks. Of course, I could be exposed, but I feel like we’re so safe it’s unlikely.”   

Whilst Gaillard has no students to tend to with in-person learning, she has still been keeping busy. Her work involves staff health training, such as training teachers in proper health protocol and usual meetings; however, due to COVID-19, she now needs to revise all of her day-to-day work in an effort to properly implement safety procedures and protocols from LA County.

“One of the biggest difficulties with working around COVID-19 is how quickly it changes. One minute I’m working on reading health guidelines and figuring out what to do, then the next minute I get an update that makes all the work I just did get thrown out of the window,” Gaillard said.

An important portion of Gaillard’s work is staying updated with the nationwide COVID-19 task force. For example, Gaillard must ensure that RBUSD has the data they need to help fight the pandemic and that proper protocol is being followed.

“Supporting the national effort against COVID-19 is an important part of what we do,” Gaillard said. “Making sure that other health professionals have everything from [RBUSD] that they need is important to playing our part in trying to resolve this global health crisis.”

Although all district staff including teachers, support staff and others undergo yearly universal precaution training, the pandemic has “taken things to a whole new level,” according to Gaillard. This change is due to the extra steps needed to be taken because of COVID-19. However, Gaillard has taken this past year’s responsibilities in stride, working hard to ensure the safety of her fellow Redondo Beach residents.

“We aren’t really dealing with the bloody knee you can visualize anymore,” Gaillard said. “We’re talking about the pathogens you can’t see, which are very dangerous. So being safe and sanitary is important to everyone’s overall safety.”

Despite the pressure of being a healthcare professional in such a trying time, Gaillard manages to push through and persevere for all of us.

“My job is difficult, but difficulty is part of any job. It’s kind of just rolling with the punches to keep on going,” Gaillard said. “Of course there are skills I would’ve liked to hone outside of a pandemic environment, but I’ve made do with a difficult situation, which is most important.”