Durham Public Schools grapples with nurse shortage amid pandemic, seeks to fill positions at job fair

School Watch

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Durham Public Schools needs more school nurses as half of their positions are vacant.

According to DPS officials, the district has 15 allotted school nurse positions, but seven of those positions are open.

The Durham County Department of Public Health has school nurses who assist the district, and currently, 19 out of the department’s 35 allotted school nurse positions are vacant.

“We needed more nurses before the pandemic, however, the pandemic just elevated how important we were,” said Tricia Howard, lead nurse for Durham Public Schools.

Howard said nurses are especially vital right now as they have their hands full on a regular basis with COVID concerns and possible cases.

“Right now, it’s heavy COVID response where they’re sending sick kids home who are symptomatic at school, that is the mainstay of what schools are grappling with,” Howard said.

Howard said right now they don’t have enough nurses to put one at every school, which means nurses are having to take on larger caseloads.

“Health Department nurses have several schools per nurse, they prioritize the schools with the sickest children, and then they may visit those schools on a rotation,” Howard said.

To recruit more certified nurses, the district will be holding a job fair on December 3 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Minnie Forte Brown Staff Development Center, located at 2107 Hillandale Road, Durham, NC.

Howard said it’s crucial they fill these positions as soon as possible, as she said nurses are playing a vital role right now in COVID response, mental health, and early diagnoses of illnesses in children.

“We’re critical, and we’re vital, especially to our marginalized populations of students who may have a hard time getting to a provider,” Howard said.

The salary for nurse positions at DPS starts at $4,720 per month and goes up to $7,313 per month.

For more information on the job fair or how to apply for a nurse position with DPS, click on this link.

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