The private nurses Chicago Public Schools brought in this school year aren’t properly trained and are endangering the health of vulnerable students, the Chicago Teachers Union says.
Specifically,the CTU and the school nurses they represent are upset about the $30 million four-year contract CPS approved in June 2015 with RCM Technologies for supplemental nursing services.
While in-house school nurses have been cut in recent years, CPS has brought in staff from RCM, but many of them don’t have adequate training to deal with pediatric health issues, CTU says.
“One of the concerns that the union has: Is this another Flint, Michigan? Is this privatization that’s going to end up hurting, killing, maiming minority kids in our school? That’s what we’re starting to see,” said John Kugler, a CTU field representative, speaking outside CPS headquarters downtown.
But asked for specific incidents of injured children or staff, Kugler instead railed against Mayor Rahm Emanuel for trying to run CPS like a private company, instead of a “social service.”
Joan Lipschutz, a longtime CPS nurse, said the private nurses typically have little experience dealing with “fragile” CPS kids, including those with diabetes.
“They don’t know how to count carbs, they don’t know how to calculate an insulin dose, they don’t know how to inject the insulin,” Lipschutz said.
In a statement, a school district spokeswoman said: “CPS is providing more nursing services to more students because our partnership with RCM is filling critical vacancies and supplementing services the District provides.”
Mary Anne Wesoloski, president of the Illinois Association of School Nurses, described school nursing as a “very unique specialty of nursing.”
“In days gone by, we didn’t see as many children with health needs,” she said. “But now, it’s estimated that one in four children are attending school with health needs, and one in three comes to school every day with symptoms of mental health illness.”
According to the CTU, about 60 percent of CPS schools have a certified nurse on campus just once a week.