March 1, 2021

3 Tips to Prepare Nursing Students For The Pandemic Workforce

nursing student success pandemic

By Maria Grandinetti, Ph.D., RN, BSBA, CNE

When people think of nurses, the common perspective is skewed. We see nurses depicted in movies and stories as the professionals who give people baths or hand over medication to a patient. The average consumer doesn’t often see them use the knowledge, clinical judgement, and critical thinking skills required to be a nurse. 

The necessity of nursing has come to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. This level of recognition and appreciation is unprecedented. For example, our accelerated nursing program at Wilkes University Passan School of Nursing had a waitlist coming into the new school year, which hasn’t happened in the 13 years I’ve been working for this university. People are starting to see how important nurses are to healthcare across the nation. Experts had predicted that there would be 3.24 million nurses in 2021, but in fact, there are 4 million nurses actively practicing this year. 

Here are three ways we’ve been supporting students in order for them to enter the workforce in this time when the country needs them more than ever.

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1. Getting People Qualified Faster

Fifteen years ago, we began our accelerated nursing program, an idea that more and more schools are incorporating into their programs. We accept students into the 12-month accelerated program when they’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree in another discipline. 

Accelerated nursing programs are a fantastic way for students to make the leap into nursing. If people aren’t satisfied in their current profession and want to help others for a living, spending one year of education in an accelerated nursing program is a sure way to get that done. 

Students about to leave their nursing programs who’ve had to experience the transition to a virtual learning environment might be feeling unprepared for the workforce. Fortunately, many hospitals are granting longer orientation periods to help new nurses to get comfortable in their roles. 

2. Painting a True Picture of the Profession

We could always use more nurses in the world, but for the past few decades, the nursing shortage has become the norm. I’m hoping that with the growing change of perspective on what it means to be a nurse, there will be a gradual change in the tide. 

Nursing is a fantastic career, but it can be thankless. Students are gravitating toward it because it’s a  tangible way to help people every single day. I think part of the support we provide students is making sure they have a true depiction of what being a nurse is like in the workplace. With virtual learning, incorporating active, real-life learning has been a little more difficult. Fortunately, there are a couple tech tools we use to ensure students are getting the experience they need. 

3. Incorporating Tech Tools 

We all know that nursing can’t be fully taught by reading an online or physical textbook. We use active, real-life practice however we can. In our current virtual learning environment, we’ve had to get creative. 

To help prepare our nursing students for the NCLEX, we use UWorld’s online learning tools. At the beginning of spring or summer semesters, we take a look at our students’ GPAs and their individual summary reports following a comprehensive assessment exam and use that as a foundation to assign them UWorld practice exams. If a student is falling a bit behind on a specific subject like pharmacology or pediatrics, we have them complete 100 practice questions per week on the topic, and then we as educators can monitor and track their progress. 

We also use Clinical Med Math to help students practice dosage measurements. We use this in conjunction with our three 1-credit pharmacology courses that extend over three semesters. The tool supports student remediation and retesting of medication conversions and calculations.

With tech tools like these, we can analyze students’ usage and quickly understand where their weaknesses lie. From there, we can target those weaknesses and help them master those subjects in time for the NCLEX and their first job.

Our goal for this school year is to support our students before they enter this altered workforce. With an adjusted mindset and targeted tech tools, nursing educators can prepare students for the NCLEX and a long and successful career. 

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Maria Grandinetti, Ph.D., RN, BSBA, CNE, is an associate professor at Wilkes University Passan School of Nursing in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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