Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

Sometimes unpleasant choices have to be taken

Posted by Dana Pico on 2011/12/29


From The Philadelphia Inquirer:


Philadelphia school nurse layoffs prompt ‘Occupy 440’ rally


By Kristen A. Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

Mary Ann Sewell doesn’t just dispense aspirin and Band-Aids.

Sewell, the school nurse at Bok High in South Philadelphia, tends to 187 asthmatic teenagers. She treats insulin-dependent diabetics, kids with cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, and seizure disorders.

As part of its latest round of budget cuts, the Philadelphia School District will lay off 141 employees, including 47 nurses, effective Saturday. Sewell and about 50 others gathered at district headquarters Wednesday to protest.

They called it “Occupy 440,” a nod to the district building’s North Broad Street address. The protest was not organized by Occupy Philadelphia, but some Occupy Philadelphia members joined the cause.

Much more at the link. The story continues to tell the readers just how significant cuts in services will be with the layoffs of 47 school nurses. But the Philadelphia School District expects a budget shortfall of $629 million, and officials said recently that another $39 million had to be cut. Total new layoffs would be 141, with 47 school nurses among them.

The School District did not want to make those cuts; virtually every position within the School District can be justified in some way, and all of those positions performed specific functions. But if the School District doesn’t have the money to pay for all of those positions, then it doesn’t have the money to pay for all of them, and cuts have to be made somewhere. The School Board and the District administrators exist to set the budget and take those hard decisions. If the 47 nurses who are to be laid off are suddenly retained, then something else — and some other people’s jobs — will have to be cut to make up for the cost to retaining the nurses.

As it happens, your editor is married to a registered nurse, and certainly believes in the value of nurses as medical professionals. But your editor also knows that registered nurses can always find jobs. Indeed.com, a job search website, lists 2,161 job openings for registered nurses in the Philadelphia area,¹ ² paying $40,000 or more a year; of that, 1,633 pay $60,000 or more a year, 481 pay more than $80,000, 157 pay $100,000+, and 73 pay $120,000 or more.³ The editor’s sympathies tend to be more with the other people laid off, who have poorer job prospects.4

__________________
¹ – Accessed at 0804 on Thursday, 29 December 2011; the numbers are subject to constant change.
² – If the nurses being laid off are licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, rather than RNs, there are fewer jobs available, but the same site still lists 449 positions paying over $30,000.
³ – the higher paying jobs are included in the lower paying totals.
4 – Like, perhaps, former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who after receiving an almost $1,000,000 severance package, half of which comes from district coffers, had to file for unemployment.

7 Responses to “Sometimes unpleasant choices have to be taken”

  1. Sonja said

    Clearly, the editor and her spouse have never actually looked for a nursing job in Philadelphia. There are nursing shortages here and many places in the country. There are job openings listed in hospitals across this state and nation. However, nurses are not finding jobs because hospitals are not actively filling these positions. To state that they can “always find work” is inaccurate.

    Particularly in the case of new nurses, there is not an abundance of work. Hospitals are seeking an experienced workforce, which is understandable, but at the same time, these nurses have nowhere to put their foot in the proverbial door. My own boyfriend, a nurse who graduated in the spring of 2010, took several months to find a job. Many of his classmates are still working in their pre-nursing fields, yet unable to secure a job. The interesting thing about his class is that it was a hospital nursing program. Though the students worked on their floors, on their patients and in their computer system, this hospital was more eager to hire outside nurses, claiming that the students that they had trained were not qualified. If you’re not graduating qualified nurses, your program should be scrapped.

    My boyfriend did secure a position at said hospital, after working 6 months in a nursing home. He is on a cardiac critical care unit, where his patient ratio is supposed to be 4 patients. I can count on two fingers the number of times he has had such an assignment in the time that he’s worked there. We are talking about heart failure patients. People who desperately need and are paying quite handsomely for expert medical care. They are instead being treated to a nurse who is trying to handle an impossible patient load, rushing about from room to room barely scraping by with all of his work done at the end of a shift. It certainly doesn’t help that they like to cap these floors at one or two aides.

    The changes in medical funding are going to worsen this situation. The merit-based rewards system is going to take money from hospitals that need the money to perform better and give it to those who are already And, I should mention, that none of this will be based on patient outcomes. It will be based on how “happy” patients are. Floors that receive critical patients will lose money to those that have relatively healthy ones. Hospitals that pretend to be inclusive resorts will be granted monetary favor over those that are actually working hard to improve outcomes. Huge urban and regional hospitals with intensive units will be abandoned to favor small rural hospitals that ship off serious cases.

    Walk a mile. Check nursing forums online where the graduates and experienced nurses in Philadelphia are desperately seeking work without success. Don’t tell them they can always get a job. They cannot.

  2. Dana said

    Sonja, that some nurses have had problems finding jobs — and the situation you described was a bit more acute two years ago — the fact is that nurses can find jobs, in just the manner you described: they may have to start at a nursing home.

    If there are 2,161 open nursing positions in the Philadelphia area, but they are all looking for more experienced nurses, as those positions are filled, the positions they had previously will be vacated, creating openings for less experienced nurses.

    What you did not address is the fact that the nurses being laid off by the School District, whether they might have some problems finding the jobs they want, ll still have a much easier time of it than the other people being let go. Can the custodian who was laid off find work as easily as the nurse? What about the office assistant? Even the laid off teacher is probably going to have more difficulty finding work than the nurse.

  3. Welcome to the party, Sonja! I hope you plan on visiting often. Based on my multiple-year experience with you in the MUDding arena, I have a lot of respect for you. If you stick around, we will likely never agree on anything political, and may likely have heated exchanges, but as I’ve said on numerous occasions, there are Liberals who are always wrong (aphrael, Jeff) who I strongly respect in political debate. I hope you become one of them, and maybe even become neo-conservative in the process!

  4. Sonja said

    Again, nobody’s hiring. Even experienced nurses aren’t being brought into open positions.

    I didn’t touch on the other people being laid off because I can’t as authoritatively speak on their individual abilities to find work. There is still a national unemployment rate of over 8 percent: It’s hard for people to find work anywhere. For teachers, yes. My cousin has given up his dream to teach to become something “practical” because he knows that he will not find work.

    Incidentally, if the school districts didn’t operate in the same manner that hospitals will, there wouldn’t have to be lay-offs. Schools that need funding to improve their performance aren’t getting any because the schools that already excel are being rewarded. It seems (to me) to be counter-intuitive. If you want schools, hospitals and other community service venues to succeed, you can’t strip them of their livelihood and expect them to improve. It’s not about rewarding “bad performance.” It’s about enriching it. It’s about ensuring that any child enrolled in school can get a good education. That if you’re in an accident and ported to the nearest hospital, you can get excellent care, no matter the location.

    I understand that there’s a general movement to disassemble public education, public health, public fire departments and other things, but this is something that I can’t get behind. I don’t think education and healthcare are supposed to be the luxuries of the wealthy, with everyone else having odds continually stacked against them. We should take pride in a system that treats every child as an equal opportunity for greatness and strives to create a uniform expectation of healthcare quality. Our success as a nation can be measured on how our lowest citizens are treated. I think we stack up rather poorly in this department, due to programs and incentives like this.

    (Also, my apologies for bending your gender in my original comment, Dana)

  5. Dana Pico said

    Nobody’s hiring? You are telling me that there are ads for 2,161 registered nurses in the Philadelphia area, and all of those employers are just wasting their money advertising positions that they don’t intend to fill? Clearly, the personnel managers at all of the hospitals need to be fired! That would include Temple, which has several ads out, Abington Memorial, and even CHOP,

    According to this site, the national unemployment rate for RNs is a whopping 1.1%.

    As for our public schools, I would say that the problems have been wholly misidentified and wrongly addressed. The problems aren’t with the schools as much as they are with the students, and the adults who claim to be their parents. When teachers have to spend a good portion of their time managing the classroom rather than teaching, because the classes have undisciplined hooligans-in-the-making, it’s a wonder anyone learns anything. When I went to school, if you got in trouble in school — which might include corporal punishment in the school — you just hoped that your parents didn’t find out about it, because you’d get in worse trouble at home. Today, if a kid gets punished in school, he can’t wait to get home and tell his single mother and her unemployed, live-in boyfriend, so that they can sue the school.

    But, that’s not to say that the schools haven’t contributed to the problems. When the education professionals decided that they were better qualified than parents to teach all sorts of things that weren’t part of what public education used to do — sex education, diversity training, esteem building — they assumed functions for which they were wholly unqualified and which expanded the costs in time and resources for the schools.

    When I went to (public) high school, we had exactly one teacher who had his Master’s; all the rest were teaching on only a Baccalaureate degree. Yet somehow, some way, every member of my graduating class could actually read, could do math — meaning: calculations beyond how many grams went in a dime bag — and they knew that we had 50, and not 57 states. We lost only one girl to getting pregnant, and not a single one of us (there were only 78 people in my graduating class) spent time in reform school. Imagine that.

  6. Dana Pico said

    Oh, and don’t worry about mistaking my sex: it’s been a part of my life for 58 years now, and I’m not offended.

  7. [...] also on Truth Before Dishonor, where more dissent was taken. [...]

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