New Haven Health Dept. working to address ongoing school nurse shortage; parents expressing concerns

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven is dealing with a school nurse shortage. The Health Department says there are about a dozen nurse vacancies and officials are working to fill them. Parents we spoke to Wednesday say they have concerns.

New Haven’s Department of Health employs the school nurses, and with those vacancies, Health Director Maritza Bond says she is depending on temp agencies and school-based health centers to fill the need as they work to fill the vacancies.

“Working through temp agencies and making sure the temp agencies supply the nurses so that we can fill the gaps while we are simultaneously trying to interview and fill the vacancies that we do have,” explained Dir. Bond.

Dir. Bond says the shortage has been an ongoing problem. She acknowledges that living through a pandemic is not the time to face nursing shortages within the newly reopened schools, and as a parent herself, she understands the need well.

She says she is in continuous conversation with the Board of Education and the Board of Alders in the city to create an assessment of the jobs available. Adding, it is challenging to keep nurses without competitive pay. With nurses in such high demand, Dir. Bond says oftentimes, the city is losing nurses to the private sector.

“It makes it really hard for municipalities like us where our rate is below the market value,” she said.

For parents in the city, though, the shortage is worrisome especially for those with kids who are medically compromised.

Nijiji-Ife Waters, a New Haven Public Schools parent told us, “It just seems like the go-to answer for this is the pandemic and not proper planning…What happens if an emergency comes up? What are you gonna do? Are you expecting the teachers to also be teachers and nurses?”

Which is why Dir. Bond says the daily work continues to ensure every school has access to a school nurse to serve New Haven schools.

“We definitely understand the importance of having a nurse in every school and being able to provide support for the children as needed and so we are working closely with the board to address this,” she said. “We always make sure that there’s a nurse covering at every school and that there’s a nurse director available throughout the district as issues arise.”

Dir. Bond says Wednesday she met with the Board of Alders Finance Committee to get the conversation going on raising nurses’ pay as they continue to fill the need of school nurses with temp agencies in the meantime.

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