EMTs and paramedics from Action Ambulance fill in for school nurses at Holyoke Public Schools

EMTs and paramedics from Action Ambulance fill in for school nurses at Holyoke Public Schools

With five school nurses already out this week for a variety of reasons, Holyoke Public Schools was facing a critical decision: How will the district keep schools safely open for students and staff if even one more school nurse needs time off?

“It took a lot of brainstorming, but we came up with a fabulous solution,” said Receiver/Superintendent Anthony Soto after meeting with HPS Chief of Pupil Services Marianne Currier and Anne Marie Stronach from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday, January 12.

“After that conversation where we discussed how another school district in eastern Massachusetts handled a similar nursing shortage, I reached out to Action Ambulance to see if they could help,” Mr. Soto said. 

Action Ambulance—which provides ambulance services across Massachusetts, from Boston to the Berkshires—immediately came to the rescue, assembling a group of emergency medical technicians and paramedics who are willing to work extra shifts this week and next to support school nurses across the district. 

“Our staff responded immediately to the request to help out in Holyoke schools,” said Action Ambulance’s Chief Strategy Officer Frank McNeil. “They are working on their days off, and we are readjusting our schedules to make this all work.” 

And working it is, both Mr. McNeil and Mr. Soto agree. “The school nurses are receiving the support they need from state-licensed health-care providers who are happy to be working with our students.” Mr. Soto said. “With their help, we are bridging this current shortage in school nurses with at least five of our staff being out on leave this week and next.”

It’s also been a great opportunity for Action Ambulance’s EMTs and paramedics. “This experience is allowing our employees to interact with children on a completely different level,” Mr. McNeil explained. “Normally, our ambulance personnel are interacting with families during medical emergencies, with lights and sirens blaring, often in life-and-death situations. Our staff are really welcoming the chance to work with students at school, in a more relaxed setting, to provide a very different aspect of community health care.”

Both Action Ambulance and Holyoke Public Schools are facing on-going challenges recruiting medical professionals to fill key roles. “That’s one of the reasons this partnership is so extraordinary,” said HPS Director of Health, Wellness, and Nursing Cynthia Carbone. “Action Ambulance is also facing staffing shortages, and yet their employees were happy to step up for the students of Holyoke when we really need their help. Our nurses are so appreciative of this support,” she added. “It’s been a very challenging time for them, and they’ve continued to do an outstanding job meeting critical care needs even while we’ve been short staffed. This support from Action Ambulance comes at a critical time for us.”