A nurse from the Philadelphia school district is featured in Time magazine.
Rudolph Blankenburg Elementary School Nurse Shelah McMillan is featured in Time’s 2020 Person of the Year issue, which names frontline healthcare workers as Guardians of the Year.
McMillan appears on the cover of the publication praising healthcare workers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I first found out I was going to be a part of Time magazine, I was shocked and completely overwhelmed,” McMillan said. “I was highlighted by 6ABC locally, but I didn’t think it would turn into anything nationwide.”
McMillan worked in the Philadelphia School District for three years. Blankenburg is the first school where she worked as a nurse.
After the new coronavirus began to spread, McMillan provided weekly updates to the Blankenburg management team and staff during meetings. She also made sure that the school’s Chromebook distribution was not only safe, but also socially distanced.
Since entering school, McMillan has become a confidante for students, a resource for families and a support system for staff and the community of Blankenburg.
“Nurse Shelah is not just a school nurse, but a community nurse,” Blankenburg Principal Leandrea Hagan said. “She brings a safe and nurturing environment to this school and she always gives an invaluable contribution.
“She constantly watches over our families and academics; she has truly been a therapist for our school throughout it all, ”she added. “There is so much love and warmth that comes from knowing her.”
McMillan fully understands the important role healthcare workers play in helping communities stay healthy, especially during the pandemic. It’s a role she has adopted.
“As a mother, I know there is nothing more important than making sure our children are healthy and well taken care of,” McMillan said. “There is nothing I love more than being in a school and letting children and their families know that we are there for them.
“With the school buildings closed, I couldn’t see all of my students, but this work allowed me to connect with many more families across the region,” she added. “It has been a truly enriching experience, especially when I connect with families in Blankenburg and let them know that we are always there for them and that we want to make sure they get through it. “
McMillan also works as an emergency room nurse at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
“When COVID first hit, [our patients] doubled, ”McMillan said. “We had to shut down the waiting room, so if you didn’t have COVID-like symptoms, we weren’t bringing in any new patients.
“In the emergency room, I have a mission of three to five people. Of my three to five people I have a mission for, I can guarantee that three of my five had symptoms. At least two tested positive for COVID on a given mission.
“We are constantly wearing a face shield and mask,” she added. “We had to do this for every patient because you didn’t know who has COVID. We went from two fans on standby to six. The hospital was invaded. We are constantly exposed; I would say 50% of our shifts have been exposed. “
According to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans have a 1.4 times higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than non-Hispanic whites; among Hispanic communities, the risk is 1.7 times higher. Both groups have a 2.8 times higher risk of death from the disease than whites.
Since April, McMillan has been working with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which offers free testing in African American communities in the Philadelphia area that have been hit hardest by the virus. The association was founded by Dr Ala Stanford.
“Dr. Stanford operated on my daughter a few years ago,” McMillan said. “At the time, she didn’t know I was a nurse. She also knew me since I was an accountant.
“I contacted her and asked her, ‘How can I help you? And she said, ‘You can bring me nurses.’ I said no problem. I went to her second test site, which was in Enon, and I’ve been helping ever since, ”she added.
In addition to performing tests with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, McMillan is responsible for calling people who test positive for COVID-19. She said there were days when making those calls was difficult.
“Knowing that there is another person on the front line with you and that they are trying to protect their family, then you have to turn around and tell them that not only is she positive, but her whole house is positive,” said McMillan said.
“Hearing this person break up because she has worked so hard to keep her family safe has touched me the hardest,” she added. “I had to take a break for a second. You know, it’s hard. I am afraid, but I am hopeful and faithful. I also remain in prayer.
McMillan, 46, graduated from Lankenau-Germantown Motivational High School. She became a nurse in 2014 after being an accountant for years.
She received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Temple University, an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Nursing from Thomas Jefferson University.
McMillan said that while she is thrilled to be on Time magazine, what she hopes people will take away from her story is determination.
“There will be a lot of people in life who will tell you no, but there are also a lot of people who will tell you yes,” McMillan said. “It’s about believing in yourself.
“The motto of the Blankenburg school is ‘Destined for greatness’ and I like this motto because everyone is destined for greatness,” she added. “If you believe in yourself, it won’t be difficult for someone else to believe in you.”