NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The City of New Haven struck a new contract deal with the local nurses union this week in a move that leaders hope will encourage more people to apply.
Out of the 45 public health nurse positions at city schools, 27 need to be filled. Cynthia-Harris Jackson, the president of the local union and a nurse at Conte West Hills Middle School, said that because of the staff shortage, she’s had to work at multiple schools at the same time.
“If there is a high-acuity patient in a school, you might have to take care of the students in your school, leave your school, and go cover another school,” she said. “We still have to cover all of our children that need procedures, that need their medications.”
The City of New Haven approved a new six-year contract with the union. It takes effect retroactively from fiscal year 2020 and runs through 2026. Nurses will get a 3% increase for 2020. They will then be put on a pay scale in the second year, and receive 2.5 % increases for the remaining years.
The hope is this will make working at a New Haven school more competitive with other cities.
“I don’t think any nurse thinks a school nurse job is like ‘I’m going to get rich,” Harris-Jackson said. “We do it because we love the children, we love serving the community and in doing so, we need to be compensated for our skills. All schools need a nurse, no matter how big or how small. Every school needs a nurse.”
Nijiji-Ife Waters, a New Haven Public Schools parent, says her son relies on a school nurse.
“My son is on an asthma sick plan, and he requires his treatment every four to six hours,” she said. “Teachers already have enough to do as far as teaching. But to have to teach and then also be a nurse at the same time, you’re actually playing with these kids’ lives.”
Compared to the state average, new school nurses in New Haven were making about $20,000 less.
In a statement, the city said this new contract will provide nurses with a well-deserved raise. The union president believes it’s a good starting point to negotiate more competitive wages in the future.