City nurse position remains unfilled

Debra Mulvenna, a registered nurse and member of the Westfield Health Department, applies a bandage to the arm of William Sowa, of Westfield, after he received his flu shot at the Westfield Senior Center in this file photo.

WESTFIELD- The Health Department continues to struggle to fill a vacant nurse position, said Public Health Director Joseph Rouse during the Board of Health meeting Jan. 8.

Rouse said that they had qualified applicants, but the pool of applicants was not large enough. In two months, they have only received six applicants.

“The advertising for that is ongoing and will still be ongoing until filled,” said Rouse.

Rouse noted that they selected a nurse, but that person declined the position because of the starting salary. The position is 35 hours per week and the salary is capped at $35 per hour. He stressed that those who applied are qualified, but that due to the relatively high turnover of the position, they want to be more thorough in their search. 

“It’s really hard to get someone in here and have them stay for just two, three, four years,” said Rouse. 

Rouse echoed what Supervising Public Health Nurse Debra Mulvenna had said last month when she brought this subject up: that certain aspects of her job have had to be put on the back burner while she lacks an additional nurse. 

In that same meeting in December, Rouse floated the idea of not having a Registered Nurse (RN) at all if they cannot afford the starting salary an RN may require. 

“It’s not only about the qualifications. We have a very close-knit group of people who all need to help and work together and we can’t have that disrupted,” said Rouse, “It’s going to be really hard to find that person that is just going to meld right into everything.”

Rouse suggested that they should try to expand the application pool to include Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) with the caveat that an LPN that is hired must get their RN within a certain period of time of being hired. 

Rouse said that he hopes to have another nurse hired and sitting in on the next Board of Health meeting in February. 

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