The Thin Line Spotlight: Sandy Burnette
Noblesville School Nurse Sandy Burnette Answers the Call of Duty
Writer / Megan Arszman
A concerned parent calls the Noblesville High School nurse line, unsure if their teenager’s temperature means COVID-19. Sandy Burnette’s reassuring voice on the other end of the line asks questions, takes time to listen and consider, and gives the parent some comfort in her answer, even if that answer is, “He might test positive.”
After more than 12 years as a nurse, Sandy Burnette has developed a professional instinct to sense the answer to many patients’ health issues. Now, one year removed from the start of the pandemic in the U.S., she has developed an instinct with regard to COVID as well.
“You get to the point where you hope you’re wrong, but you end up being right most of the time,” she says.
Burnette, her husband Jeremy, and their four kids, Evan, Aidan, Abby and Izzy, moved to Noblesville 11 years ago. After only a year in residence, Jeremy was killed in a motorcycle accident. At the time Burnette was working as a nurse at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, but she knew she needed a job that was more conducive to being a single parent. That was when she started as Noblesville East Middle School’s nurse. After seven years at the middle school, she moved to Noblesville High School, where she has played an integral role in the school system.
“I love being involved in the school system because I’m part of the community,” Burnette says. “I can make a connection with the kids on another level as a parent, because I see what they go through on a day-to-day basis inside and outside of school.”
When schools shut down in March of 2020, school nurses were given the option of aiding at hospitals and clinics, or going on unpaid leave at home.
“As a single mom, pay is pretty important, but I also knew I needed to do what I could to help,” Burnette says. “I jumped right in and asked what they needed.”
She was sent straight to Indianapolis’ COVID hotbed, working as a clinical helper in the COVID intensive care unit at Community Hospital North.
“It was the worst place I could imagine going, but that’s where I went,” she says.
Working there for 10 weeks not only gave Sandy Burnette insight and knowledge on the virus, but also lit a fire under her to help keep COVID from her school and community. She returned to the high school in July ready to work with administrators on plans for social distancing, masks, sanitizing and preparing students for some semblance of a return to school.
“Prior to COVID I was 100% with the kids all the time, but this year I’ve become like a triage nurse, answering phone calls, educating parents and students, etcetera,” Burnette says. “I have two great nurses that are working with me at the high school to allow me to be in this role.”
With the rollout of the vaccine, Burnette recently returned to Community North, only this time to assist with vaccinations.
“I am so excited seeing everyone getting vaccinated,” she says. “Returning to the hospital with a more positive spin on things has given me a morale boost, like we are going to beat COVID.”