NYC Rushes To Hire School Nurses Days Before Students Return

NEW YORK CITY — Disorganization plagues the city’s efforts to hire about 400 public school nurses, with more than 100 still needed days after Mayor Bill de Blasio suddenly delayed reopening city classrooms, sources and officials said. 

New York City Health + Hospitals had only hired 272 out of 379 nurses needed to fill empty positions in 1,400 school buildings as of September 3, a union source told NY1. 

This was almost a month after de Blasio announced the city’s public hospital system would take on the task of hiring nurses (after teachers raised concerns about returning to school without them during the novel coronavirus pandemic) and seven days before schools were initially slated to reopen. 

The Department of Education confirmed Tuesday more than 250 positions had been filled and promised the remaining nurses would be hired before classrooms reopen to students Monday. 

“The Mayor and Chancellor pledged that every school building will have a full-time nurse this fall, and we will deliver,” spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said.

“Our work with the Department of Health and Health + Hospitals will guarantee access to a high-quality medical professional for every child.”  

But as recently as Monday afternoon, recruiters were posting wanted ads to a local nurses’ Facebook group with one offering to “green light” a nursing school graduate who did not have the required six months work experience. 

And one recent out-of-state hire, who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, said the onboarding process has left her unsure about whether or not she’ll accept the position. 

“I feel insecure about going,” the nurse said. “I don’t know what to do.”

The nurse, who applied in August to New York Health + Hospitals and was accepted in early September, still doesn’t know where she will be housed and only found out last Friday to which school she was assigned. 

This information came one week after a recruiter demanded she come to New York to be fingerprinted and receive training that never materialized, the nurse said. 

“My recruiter didn’t know anything,” the nurse said. “I didn’t go because I felt overwhelmed.”

The nurse is also troubled by her contract.

Nurses are promised a 10-month contract with 10 paid days off, a $532 weekly stipend, a $1,000 sign on bonus and a MetroCard, an online listing shows. 

Nurses with two years or more experience earn between $55 and $82.50 an hour while those with less than 11 months earn between $40 and $60, according to the listing. 

The would-be New York City public school nurse has been offered a full time position at $55 an hour, about $20 more than she earns at her part-time job in her home state, but risks her contract coming to a sudden end should a COVID-19 outbreak close the school, she said. 

“They will send me home without paying anything extra,” the nurse said. “They will only paid the hours I worked.”

These issues trouble the nurse because she wants badly to help New York City reopen its schools and, at one point, was willing to travel halfway across the country to do so. 

“I wanted to be a school nurse in NY because I think it is important for the society that schools open,” the nurse said. “But the fact is that they are very disorganized.” 

A Texas nurse, with years of experience, can’t get anyone to call her back or answer questions about training, orientation or the status of her application.

“It’s been all over the place,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen.” 

These weeks of waiting surprised her because, at the height of the pandemic, she rushed to New York to help at an NYC Health + Hospital facility. 

Yet she’s seen recruiters courting other nurses with less than a year’s experience. 

“I’ve noticed kind of week by week they’re kind of lowering their standard,” the Texas nurse said. “If they’re expecting a full-on school nurse, I don’t know how anybody could just walk in and do it.”