NORCO Gracedale offering tuition assistance, increasing differential pay
Back in the late 80s, Gracedale Nursing Home offered a tuition assistance program for county employees interested in nursing. The program was a success; nevertheless, the county discontinued it. Human Services Director Susan Wandalowski would like to restore this program, especially since there are 23 open LPN and 33 open RN positions. Northampton County Council gave its blessing at its April 19 meeting.
This program will be offered in conjunction with Northampton Community College. The program will be available to Gracedale employees in good standing who have been employed at the nursing home for at least a year. The county will pay the tuition and buy the books needed, but the student must maintain a B average. The employee must also agree to remain with the County for two years after getting his or her degree.
The county will get a break on the tuition. The LPN course will cost $6,000, while the RN program is $12,000. The County expects to pay $60,000 for five RN and 10 LPN slots. That is only slightly more than one average RN salary of $55,448.
The program is only available to Gracedale employees, but Human Resources Director Elizabeth Kelly said after the meeting that tuition reimbursement programs are available to other county employees.
In addition to this tuition assistance program, Human Resources Director Kelly discussed a Memorandum of Understanding between AFSCME and the County concerning a $0.15 increase in shift differential for nurse’s aides and LPNs at Gracedale. This means that nursing staff working the middle and graveyard shifts will see an extra dollar per hour.
John Cusick was critical of the increase, but only because the contract with AFSCME is ending Dec. 31. He suggested that the increase could have been part of the new contract. But Kelly countered, “The problem is acute now.” She said that the second shift (3-11 p.m.) is the worst.
In addition to the tuition assistance and differential increase, council also agreed with DA John Morganelli’s request to reclassify three clerical positions to pay about $4,000 more for all three combined. “[T]here is difficulty filling and retaining these positions,” Morganelli said.