Nursing students are living in a world where their professional training and skills are in great demand. This was definitely the case before COVID-19 and is even more true now. As the number of coronavirus cases exceeds millions worldwide, it has become abundantly clear that the nursing shortage we face in the US is getting worse every day.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has provided guidance for nursing schools, encouraging programs to partner with hospitals and facilities to find ways students can volunteer to help. States are also forming their own initiatives and urging nursing students to volunteer.
Illinois State and Mt. Carmel College of Nursing, nursing schools in Illinois and Ohio, respectively, have indicated that they will offer temporary licenses to nursing students who have completed most of their requirements and are close to graduating. The California Board of Registered Nursing will allow students to help in ways that align with their training to date. California has formed a health corps that will place student volunteers in healthcare facilities where they are needed.
In Nevada, schools like Great Basin College are finding ways to graduate students early, by accelerating classes via distance delivery and finding creative ways to deliver technical instruction. In Texas, the governor waived certain requirements for nursing students, extending temporary licenses for those who had not yet taken their licensing exams and allowing students to complete their clinical rotations with 50% in-person patient care instead of the normal 75%. Texas A&M College of Nursing students are being fast-tracked to a May nursing graduation date.
Even if we had enough nurses, they do not necessarily live in the areas that are most affected.
Georgia is granting temporary licenses to any out of state nurses who come to help in their hospitals. Idaho is allowing students to work as apprentices if supervised by licensed nurses, and new graduates can be granted a temporary license prior to taking the NCLEX. The Ohio State Legislature is also allowing new nursing school graduates to apply for licenses right after graduation prior to taking the exam.
Prior to the pandemic, the US had already projected a nursing shortage due to increasing healthcare needs, retirement of 1 million nurses in the next 10-15 years (33% of the current workforce), and an education system without enough faculty and enrollment spots to keep up with demand. Which makes our current problem worse.
Nursing students like you can help. Students can spearhead an initiative to support healthcare providers on the front lines or collect donated personal protective equipment (PPE). Project Hope, an international health services non-profit, suggests that students who have hospital clearance can screen patients, provide administrative support and route patients to appropriate caregivers or resources for self-care. They also outline the issues behind our worldwide nursing shortage and suggest potential solutions, some of which have already been enacted by the aforementioned states.
Nurses and nursing students must also be careful to protect themselves. Often they work closest to patients and are therefore vulnerable. Mindfulness, proper nutrition, sleep and exercise are also important to ensure calm in a stressful environment and remain a positive force for others.
Here at Picmonic, we appreciate you for choosing a career in nursing. If you are a nursing student who is helping your community and would like us to include a link to a writeup of what you and your colleagues are doing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will include updates to this article over time.