Nursing Seniors At Ohio University Graduate Early To Join The COVID-19 Workforce
As colleges and universities across the nation have shuttered in-person education, training for future nursing professionals has shifted considerably. Some schools have elected to extend semesters, meaning students who were due to graduate this spring have been forced to wait another semester.
At Ohio University, however, the College of Health Sciences and Professions took a different approach: they have advanced their 153 senior nursing students to early graduation in an effort to help against the fight of COVID-19.
Why Early Graduation?
Dr. Randy Leite, Dean of the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP), tells Nurse.org that as a university, they believe that one of the most valuable contributions they can provide is equipping the workforce with trained public health professionals, which is exactly what they have done.
“Right now, we are facing a public health crisis of unprecedented proportions–one in which days or weeks can make a critical difference in terms of response,” Dr. Leite explains. “Allowing our new graduates to enter the workforce early provides valuable, and vital, medical resources during this critical time.”
According to Dr. Leitie, although Southeast Ohio, where the university is located, has experienced relatively low cases of COVID-19, many of the graduating seniors plan on working in hospitals across Ohio, where higher numbers of COVID have been reported, so their presence is a vital resource.
How They Made It Happen
Dr. Deborah Henderson, Director of the School of Nursing within the College of Health Sciences and Professions, explains that the school worked with the Ohio Board of Nursing to determine if their graduates were ready to graduate early.
She notes that they were able to modify their clinical experiences, as well as utilize remote clinical learning and simulations in order to complete all the board requirements for their coursework. In addition to shifting educational requirements, the school also worked under the Ohio Board of Nursing’s guidance that allows for nursing graduates to apply for a temporary nursing license that will allow the seniors to actually begin practicing as licensed nurses before taking the NCLEX.
And although she adds that CHSP believes that a graduate’s strongest opportunity for successful licensure is shortly after graduation, many testing sites have been closed, so students simply have not had the option for testing as usual. The temporary nursing license helps fill that gap for now.
“We commend the Ohio Board of Nursing for establishing a temporary nursing license that will allow graduates to enter the workforce more quickly in order to supplement the ranks of nurses during a period in which our state and nation anticipate a surge in hospitalized patients,” says Dr. Henderson.
According to Dr. Henderson, when the graduates do take their NCLEX, they may encounter a slightly modified exam, with fewer questions and time to take the test. However, all candidates for licensure must still demonstrate the same knowledge, skills, attitudes and clinical reasoning that have always been required.
How The Early Grads Feel About The Decision
Caleb Moore, 22, from Cleveland, one of the members of the 2020 Ohio University’s graduating class of senior nursing students, says he believes that the school made the right decision in giving the students the opportunity to graduate early.
“Nobody is being forced into the workforce due to graduating early, so if you feel like you want to take more time before heading to the bedside, by all means, take that time,” he points out. “The new nurses who want to enter the workforce will help to ease the staffing burden and make the healthcare system more resilient.”
Moore, who tells Nurse.org that he first became “hooked” on nursing as a career after watching a flight helicopter land while visiting a friend at a hospital, says he is grateful to the pivots that the school made to tailor their education in their last semester. Along with the move towards online education, he explains that they shifted their content to be more specific to COVID-related care, such as more emphasis on disease transmission, PPE use, ventilator function, and other critical care-focused areas.
Recognizing that the influx of new nurses entering the workforce in the wake of a global pandemic will forever influence how they carry out their nursing care, Moore says he believes he and his fellow COVID-prepared nurses will play a role in changing the future of the nursing profession.
“We will have a big part in shaping this landscape and influencing the policies that will guide our practice for the future, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see the changes that will happen because of this,” he says.
And with a position at the Cleveland Clinic Heart Failure ICU already lined up, Moore is ready to tackle the challenges ahead of him.
“I think the biggest thing that we all realized is that we needed to stay confident in the education that we had received and be strong advocates for ourselves and for our patients in order to keep our patients and ourselves safe,” he says. “This is definitely a challenging time, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle.”
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