Dist. 181 acts to heal its nursing dilemma
Last updated 12/18/2019 at 4:24pm | View PDF
In an effort to reduce nurse staffing shortfalls at its schools. Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 Board members Monday voted to both raise the daily rate it pays substitute nurses as well as cover tuition for its district-level registered nurse to get certified school nurse (CSN) certification.
On six occasions so far this school year, schools have been unable to find substitute nurses when their full-time RNs are absent. That means the district-level nursing staff has to step in, preventing them from doing their regular work.
At Monday’s District 181 board meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources John Munch told board members that substitute nurses are in demand generally and that the district’s low pay rate of $95 per day puts it at a competitive disadvantage.
“We currently pay our substitute nurses the same as we do substitute instructional assistants or substitute administrative assistants,” Munch told board members, citing a recent pay study of 19 surrounding districts showing an average daily rate of $128. “We’re a solid $33 below the average.”
Board members approved the administration’s recommendation to raise the rate to $130 per day at an annual cost of about $7,000. Certified nursing assistants could also be used in the event a substitute RN is not available.
The district’s nursing department is headed by one CSN who oversees the nine school RNs and the districtwide RN. The market for CSNs, Munch remarked, is getting tighter. Only CSNs are able to administer the health histories required for students who may qualify for special education.
“And with nine schools to oversee, just that function in her role is a pretty significant demand of her time,” Munch said.
To help shoulder the load, the administration proposed requiring the districtwide RN to achieve CSN certification, with the district paying the approximately $8,500 cost to do so. Upon completion of the certification, the former RN would be hired as a second district CSN and be given a $30,000 raise.
“Because it’s not just doing the histories. It’s attending all those meetings and delivering the reports to parents during those meetings,” Munch said. “We would like to do kind of a grow-your-own program and start creating some depth in our CSN role.”
To encourage the school-level RNs to pursue their CSN certification, the district will offer stipends for health histories conducted at their respective schools. Board member Meeta Patel and board President Bill Merchantz expressed concern that RNs achieving their CSN certification would then be inclined to leave the district for a CSN position elsewhere.
“As soon as someone achieves their CSN, and all you’re going to pay them is a stipend, how are you going to keep them?” Merchantz posed.
Munch responded that RNs are already eligible to receive partial tuition reimbursement for that training under the terms of the Hinsdale Educational Support Staff contract.
“We’re just saying if that certification was achieved, in the next HESS negotiations, we would be open to negotiating some type of stipend for them to do those health histories,” he said.
The board unanimously approved both recommendations.
“I applaud you guys for trying to find a creative solution (to this need),” Patel said.