Despite the grueling nature of working as a nurse in the middle of a pandemic, many students are flocking to the career. Some nursing schools have reported more than a 30 percent increase in applicants since COVID-19 broke out.
This is likely because in an uncertain economy, nursing jobs are really needed. In a report, The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) said there will likely be a need for 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026, and those numbers will be even higher amid the pandemic.
But for those who are already in nursing school, on the path to gaining their RN license, the future might feel a little uncertain. While all college students are adjusting to online classes, nursing students have it a little harder. There are 500 hours of direct patient care and 1,000 hours of clinical hours required to complete a nursing program certified by the AACN. And the association has made it clear that these hours are still required, despite some hospitals that have been hesitant to invite a class of undergrads into their clinics and emergency rooms.
Nursing students face challenges on two ends of a spectrum: Some are struggling to get the clinical hours they need without proper licensing to work in a hospital, and others are being propelled onto the front lines of fighting this virus, as hospitals in particularly affected areas are struggling to maintain their staffing needs.
For those who might be feeling in over their head, we’ve interviewed a nursing student at the University of Portland about how her program is adjusting amid the pandemic.
Q: Are you still expected to do clinicals? Is that scary for you?
My clinical was in an assisted care facility so our rotation ended early to protect the residents and limit exposure. The abrupt ending was scary because we were worried about meeting our program’s clinical hour requirement but luckily we were able to do so through additional assignments.
Q: Do you feel like nursing students are getting thrown into work early because hospitals are understaffed?
I have not experienced this where I am, but I definitely heard talk of that being a possibility if hospitals turned chaotic.
Q: Has a lot of what you’re learning shifted to treating COVID-19? Or how has your curriculum changed at all during this time?
The content of my curriculum remained the same with additional lessons that incorporated emerging information about COVID-19. My cohort was supposed to start our summer semester and clinical rotation in May but for many reasons, it was canceled. Our curriculum for our senior year has been shifted and we will graduate in August of 2021 rather than May of 2021.
Q: How are you feeling during all of this? Is there something that helps keep you calm, sane?
The transition to online learning was very stressful. The shift in our curriculum and graduation date was very upsetting, but knowing that I will be able to start my senior year in the fall has kept me sane and given me something to look forward to.
What’s been the hardest part of nursing school during the pandemic for you?
Being in nursing school in the middle of a pandemic and having to switch to online learning was extremely overwhelming. The hardest part was finding the same motivation to study and focus on school, being at home with a big family rather than on campus. Although this situation has been scary and difficult, it has made me even more empowered to join this profession.
If you’re a nursing student in your final two semesters and you’re struggling financially, the AACN Foundation announced in April that they are launching a COVID-19 Nursing Student Support Fund. Students selected will receive $500 awards to help support them as they work on gaining their nursing degree. You can apply for aid here.
And if you’re considering working as a travel nurse once you graduate, check out Stability’s myriad of placements here.