The Department of Children and Families is “Calling All Nurses.”
The state is looking to hire nurses at the Albert J. Solnit Children’s Center. The psychiatric facilities run by DCF provide in-patient long-term care for children with severe mental illness or behavioral problems.
Hospital leadership said more nursing staff could make a big difference in the kids’ lives.
Marcia Cherry proved that last month.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
Performing the Heimlich maneuver is a lifesaving skill, and one that Cherry, a nurse at Solnit South in Middletown, put to use in the real-world last month.
“I didn't even think about it. I just asked them to get up, and I just started doing it,” Cherry, a licensed practical nurse, said.
She was triggered into action when she saw a boy choking in the hospital cafeteria.
“One of the children called my name, and she's like, ‘Miss Miss, he's choking.’" Cherry said.
She performed the Heimlich maneuver for about eight minutes.
“I think my instincts were first being a mom,” she said. “I am a trained CPR first aid instructor. So I just did what I normally teach people to do.”
Falling back on her training enabled her to save a life.
“When it was all said and done, and I went to the unit to check on the child. And he ran over to me and he said, ‘Can I please give you a hug because you saved my life,’” Cherry said. “I almost wanted to cry. And then he's like, ‘Miss, don't cry, don't cry.’”
Stories like this are why the DCF said nursing staff is so critical at the psychiatric facility for kids. However, Solnit South is not immune to the nursing shortage felt around the country.
“Currently our hospital is short about 30% of the direct care nursing staff that we need,” Dr. Nicole Taylor, Solnit South director of pediatrics, said.
Now DCF is hiring.
“We're running a campaign called 'Calling All Nurses,’ and we're hoping to recruit on nursing positions for all shifts,” Heidi Pugliese, Solnit South superintendent, said.
DCF is recruiting registered nurses at both Solnit facilities in East Windsor and Middletown, with the priority on Solnit South. They are filling full-time, part-time and per diem positions on all shifts.
Full-time registered nurse salaries start at $76,000. Head nurse positions start at $86,000. Employment comes with a benefits package.
Hospital leadership said right now, there is a major need to bolster mental health care.
“Mental health in children has been on the increase since 2000, and especially as we head out of the pandemic, the need has increased,” Taylor said.
They say more nursing staff ultimately means more kids get served.
“It's really preparing the children to return back into the community,” Pugliese said.
For Cherry, the greatest reward of working as a nurse is seeing the impact she has on the kids in her care.
“They will be satisfied with the fulfilment of knowing that once they can reach a kid and the kid connects with them, that's the rewarding part of working at Solnit. Because it's not physical, it’s really mental and emotional,” she said.
Anyone interested in applying for a registered nurse position with DCF can see job openings online.