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Tech’s Nursing Program remains steady amid COVID-19

There is a national shortage of nurses that has been amplified by the effects of COVID-19Nursing programs were failing to enroll enough students to meet this need, even before COVID-19, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 

Tech’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing is trying to alleviate some of that shortage.

“Total enrollment in the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing is essentially flat from Fall 2019 (775 students) to Fall 2020 (774 students), with a slight decrease in undergraduate students matched by an increase in graduate students,” Dewayne Wright,  executive director of Strategic Planning, Office of Communications & Marketing, said.

Fall 2019 saw 631 undergraduate students and 144 graduate students while Fall 2020 saw 611 undergraduate students and 163 graduate students, according to Tech’s Office Institutional Assessment, Research and Effectiveness. 

Grace Durham, a sophomore from Lebanon,  is one of the students at Tech who wants to pursue a Nursing career.

“I chose nursing for many reasons, but mainly because I strongly feel led to help others through their trials and their triumphs,” Durham said.  

Nursing schools in the United States  turned away 80,407 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2019.  They listed insufficient numbers of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors, as well as budget constraints as the reasons why, according to AACN’s report on 2019-2020 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing

Grace Durham still wants to become a nurse despite the pandemic, she says helping people is what she is led to do. Photo provided by Grace Durham

The number of inquiries and applications from prospective students has increased significantly at some nursing schools across the country since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a recent article in US News. However, if there is not enough faculty,  clinical sites or classroom space to fulfill that need, the shortage will continue and get worse.  

“Since the pandemic started, my respect for any and all medical personnel has increased to the max,” Durham said. “I can’t say that I have had a second thought about my chosen profession.  If anything, the pandemic makes me want to be a nurse more.”

When Durham does begin her nursing career, she hopes to work on a pediatric oncology unit.  

The pediatric oncology nurse is a highly specialized and sensitive person who delivers care to those pediatric patients who are receiving cancer treatment. 

“I want to work in pediatric oncology because it’s not necessarily an easy job considering how emotionally draining it can be so lots of hospitals need nurses to specialize in that area,” Durham said.  “I also have experience being around children who are very ill and if I could just put a smile on their face for one minute of their time, it would be so worth it!”