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Dear Editor, 

I was happy to read in last Friday’s edition of Samoa News that a task force has been appointed to review DOH nurses salaries. I believe DOH nurses, as well as many other health workforce personnel, have long been under paid. 

However, I would like to suggest that the task force, when performing its review, keep a few things in mind:

(1) many DOH nurses occupy positions that do not require the performance of nursing functions at all. Many of these positions are administrative in nature, and the nurses that are hired to fill them are selected in part because they have health related education and training. Therefore, it is difficult to see how all employees with a nursing degree can be lumped together into a homogeneous “nursing” category, for determining salary levels. For nurses not performing nursing functions, it would seem more appropriate to look at the position description of the employee and determine an appropriate salary based on level and scope of responsibility, and required knowledge and expertise, rather than just the employee’s degree;

(2) many nurses working at DOH are nurses with clinical nursing degrees who were recruited from LBJ, or hired directly from nursing schools. “Public health nurses” receive specific education and training in public health nursing, which is much different from clinical nursing. It would seem reasonable to give salary preference to those with actual public health nursing degrees, working as public health nurses, over clinical nurses performing public health nursing functions;

(3) trying to compare DOH nurses salaries to LBJ nurses salaries, or to nurses salaries from other Pacific jurisdictions, or the U.S., does not make much sense. If this was a valid comparison for the purpose of establishing government salaries, we would all be making much more;

(4) finally, many important public health positions are filled by employees who do not have the appropriate education, training, or experience required of the position. The reasons for this is the fact that we do not have the luxury of a diverse, well qualified pool of unemployed health workers in our small population, from which to draw highly qualified candidates. There is little we can do about this in the short term, but we can begin by giving higher priority to public health by promoting and supporting the education and training of public health professionals. 

How many nurses and public health administrative people in DOH have masters degree level education? I suspect they could be counted on one hand. We always seem to give preference to training medical doctors and clinical nurses, but neglect the public health professions. It is past my time to do anything about this situation, but I hope others in positions of responsibility, with more youth and energy, will address this shortcoming. 


Mick McCuddin