Meet our nurses: DeAnna Cooper

Meet+our+nurses%3A+DeAnna+Cooper

AJ Walker, Staff Writer

“I will be home with my three kids, so be prepared for some little faces on Zoom,” school nurse DeAnna Cooper wrote in an email leading up to a Zoom interview. During the interview, amidst the noise of children playing and a dog barking, she calmly and cheerfully spoke about the connections between her role as a mother and as a nurse. 

Cooper has worked as a nurse for 14 years and is currently in her third year at the school. She loves the energetic and pleasant atmosphere, she said. “Everyone is so supportive and welcoming, and I really enjoy interacting with everyone in the community and being part of the community.” 

Prior to working at the school, Cooper worked in the Pediatric ICU at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Roosevelt Hospital, and as a school nurse at a school for students on the autism spectrum. “I have worked primarily in the hospital setting, but I love being a school nurse, and now I don’t know if I will return to the hospital,” she said. 

Cooper’s favorite part about working as a school nurse as opposed to a pediatric hospital is that she can watch kids grow up. “Working at a hospital, you might have some patients who come back, but for the most part it’s a short term experience,” she said. “You don’t get to develop and establish that relationship [with children], which I think is a really nice aspect of school nursing.”

Since graduating from college, Cooper has exclusively worked with children either in hospitals or in schools. The biggest difference between working with children and adults are the interactions and connections established with families when working with kids, she said. 

“We know that kids really depend on their parents for comfort and they really can’t heal properly if they don’t have that support,” she said. “A lot of it is teaching parents how to care for their child if they have a particular disease process going on, or they’re going to need some additional care.”

While Cooper loves working as a nurse, she initially majored in ecology at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. “I knew going into college that I liked science, which held true from early on in my life, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “I did like the idea of doing something tactile, so that was one of the things that drew me to ecology.” 

However, after graduating from college, Cooper was unsure whether or not she wanted to continue with ecology. She joined a community service program, Americorps, where she was able to try out many potential career paths while volunteering. “You partner with different nonprofits and do volunteer work in lots of different areas, so I got to do trail building in national parks and state parks, and I got to work in schools and hospitals,” she said. 

While volunteering in these schools and hospitals, Cooper began to consider nursing. “I really liked talking to people, connecting with people, [and] helping people,” she said. “I liked that nurses provided comfort to families.” She later attended an accelerated program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she received her second bachelor’s degree in nursing, with a focus on pediatrics. 

Cooper took a five-year break from nursing from the time her first child was born until he was in kindergarten to focus on “just being a mom,” she said. “I had three kids during those years, so those were busy years.” 

When she returned to work, she found that motherhood had enhanced her nursing abilities. “I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a parent, because I am one, and I think it helps me to provide better care to someone else’s children,” Cooper said. 

Outside of nursing and being a mother, Cooper loves the outdoors and hiking, she said. “It brings people together, it can be very healing, and it helps with anxiety to be outside.” Especially during the pandemic, she has found hiking with her family to be a nice, safe activity, she said. 

Cooper lives in Westchester, where she enjoys access to hiking trails and the outdoors. She grew up in the Midwest in Indiana. “People usually tell me I speak slowly so they can tell I’m not from New York,” she said. 

Cooper loves to travel and is looking forward to traveling again post-pandemic, she said. “My husband was born in Switzerland, and we had a trip planned to go to Italy and Switzerland with my kids pre-COVID,” she said. “That’s near the top of the list [for after the pandemic] because he really wants to show them where he grew up, and I think they’re getting to the age where they would get something out of it.”  

Due to the pandemic, Cooper’s job as a school nurse has shifted significantly. Because of the daily symptom check, which keeps students who show any symptoms of the virus home, she has seen a decrease in the number of sick students in her office, she said. 

Instead, the bulk of her work currently involves contact tracing, educating the school community about COVID-19, and helping the school stay as safe as possible during in-person instruction. She spends her days monitoring students’ COVID-19 symptoms and test results, as well as updating the school on new information regarding COVID-19 protocols. “I am looking forward to the day where I can go back a little bit more to regular old school nursing, so hopefully that’s not too far in the future,” she said.

Cooper has found it challenging to explain COVID-19 to younger children who may not understand the gravity of the situation, she said. “You want to explain to them when they’re comfortable and willing and open to talk about what is going on and why it is important to keep everyone safe,” Cooper said. “Kids are still processing this just like we all are.” 

Despite the challenges the pandemic has brought to her job, Cooper chooses to remain positive, she said. “When I see all the students on campus and everyone’s so energized and happy to be together, I know that’s what the work is for,” she said. “I think we all need a little bit of normalcy right now.”