Westchester at Work
Nurse Barbara Kelly-Feldman of Cortlandt Manor
The Gig Registered Nurse
Name Barbara Kelly-Feldman
Employer Adult Primary Care Center, Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla
Hometown Cortlandt Manor
Does nursing pay?
According to the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the average starting salary for new hires in lower Hudson Valley hospitals is $52,600 a year. After 36 years, Kelly-Feldman earns $78,000 annually, plus overtime, for which her union requires that she be compensated with time-and-a-half her hourly salary or given time off. (While Kelly-Feldman, like all RNs employed at WMC except for supervisors, must belong to the nurses’ union, only about 20 percent of New York State RNs are union members.) In general, nurses working in hospitals are most highly compensated, followed in descending order by those working in nursing homes, home-care settings, clinics and treatment centers, schools, private offices, and the public-health sector.
An RN must have a high school diploma and complete a two-year program at a nursing school or community college; some RNs also graduate from four-year colleges with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. All RNs must pass a national licensing exam.
The most and least desired positions
“The best for me is the one I have now–working with adults in ambulatory care,” Kelly-Feldman says. “Because they come in on a regular basis, you almost become like family to them. The most difficult for me is working with seriously ill children. It just breaks my heart.”
Nursing—the good, the bad, and the ugly
“I’ve been cursed out and threatened; some patients take out their frustrations on you,” she says. “Someone comes in for pain medication and the doctor won’t prescribe it. So I get the brunt of their anger. Then again, sometimes people send me thank-you cards. They’re either cursing you out or sending you cards!”
Would she rather have an MD after her name?
“No,” says Kelly-Feldman. “It’s too much responsibility.”
The bad old days
“We didn’t even wear gloves when I started,” Kelly-Feldman recalls. “We did everything—nursing, housekeeping, dietary. We’d go to the pharmacy. Also, when I started, there was no such thing as an Imed machine to administer the IV medication. Nurses had to use their wristwatches and count the amount of drops.”
The nursing profession’s prognosis
“We are going to see an even bigger shortage in the next ten to twenty years, ” Kelly-Feldman predicts. “More nurses are retiring and there are not enough kids going into the programs. No one wants to deal with bodily fluids, or work a twelve-hour shift.”
Does she tune into ER?
Yes, she’s a fan, but “it’s not accurate at all. No matter who comes into that ER—OB patients, gunshot wounds—they treat them right there. In our ER, we send patients to the appropriate department.”