The city’s school district lost two nurses a week after school board members expressed concerns about nurse sharing arrangement at a dozen schools, said district officials on Wednesday evening.
Elizabeth Craft, supervisor of nursing at the Paterson Public Schools, said the nurse at School 8 and the Young Men’s Academy resigned exacerbating the district’ nurse shortage. The former resigned effective Sept. 1 while the latter will depart on the 27th, she said.
Craft told school board members both positions are being advertised to find new hires. She also told board members the number of schools sharing nurses has been reduced to six school buildings – School 11 and Roberto Clemente; Stars Academy and Rosa Parks High School; Silk City and Young Men’s Academies– sharing three nurses.
She explained the previous list that had 6 nurses being shared among 12 schools contained schools that were inside the same building. For example, School 28 and the Paterson Gifted and Talented Academy are within the same building on Presidential Boulevard.
“What happens if an incident occurs in those schools and the nurse isn’t there?” asked school board president Christopher Irving. “What is the procedure in place if that happens?”
Craft said each principal has an assignment list and schedule for the nurse assigned to their school. She said the principal calls the nurse at the other building and the nurse gets on the way to the location where she is needed. And the school is directed to call 911 while the nurse is en route to the building.
“That’s going to be a big problem,” said board member Lilisa Mimms noting an asthmatic could be lost by the time the principal calls the nurse and the nurse gets there.
Mimms wasn’t alone other board members expressed discomfort with the arrangement. Hodges said principals are not always at their buildings to dial nurses. Many attend conferences and meetings, he said.
“I’m not comfortable with this arrangement,” said Hodges.
“How do we answer those parents that something happened to their child because we did not adequately staff our schools?” remarked Mimms. What is the procedure when a nurse is absent leaving two buildings without coverage? she asked.
Craft said the district is looking to hire per diem nurses for coverage in such events. The district budgeted for 48 nurses for the year, but has 44 on staff, said state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans.
“You’re not fully staffed at this point,” said Evans. He said the cuts to nurses is not as worse as the reductions elsewhere that resulted from recurring budget cuts over the past two years during what has been termed the “fiscal cliff.”
“Are you comfortable with the staff level at which we are presently?” asked Errol Kerr to the nursing supervisor.
Craft shook her head in the negative. She said the state recommends 1 nurse for every 750 students.
Hodges, a retired medical doctor, said the district is opening itself up to liabilities. He said an asthmatic can be quickly lost.
“Once it happens, you will find the nurses,” he said.
Although board members expressed concern at the nurse sharing arrangement, the district had fewer nurses last year. The district had 43 school nurses last school year while this year it is expected to have 48, according to the district’s nurse assignment report. This year the district also added two new school buildings.