STORRS, Connecticut (AP) – US nurses have been burned out by the COVID-19 crisis and have quit smoking, however applications to nursing schools are on the rise as educators say they represent young people considering a global emergency as an opportunity and a challenge.
Among them is University of Connecticut sophomore Brianna Monte, a 19-year-old girl from Mahopac, New York, who was considering pursuing a major in education but decided to become a nurse after seeing nurses caring for her 84-year-old grandmother. who was diagnosed last year. with COVID-19 and also had cancer.
“They changed their protective gear between each patient, running like crazy trying to make sure all of their patients were being treated,” she said. “I had a moment of clarity that made me want to go straight to healthcare and join the front line workers.”
Nationally, admission to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs increased 5.6% year over year to just over 250,000 students, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Figures for the current 2021-22 school year won’t be available until January, but administrators say they are still seeing a surge in interest.
The University of Michigan School of Nursing said there were about 1,800 applications for 150 freshman places this fall, up from roughly 1,200 in 2019.
Marie Nolan, executive associate dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, said she received the largest number of applicants in history, many of whom applied before the vaccine was available despite her fears that COVID 19 will scare away students. …
Students at these and other schools were able to gain valuable hands-on experience during the pandemic by testing for COVID-19, tracing contacts and working at local vaccination clinics.
“We told the students, ‘This is a career opportunity that you will never see again,’ Nolan said.
Emma Champlin, a first-year student at the Fresno State School of Medicine, said that like many of her classmates, she saw the pandemic as a chance to gain emergency skills and then apply them. And she’s young and her immune system is fine, she said, “so the idea of getting the virus didn’t scare me.”
“It’s time for us to step in and give our best and understand how we can help, because there must be a new generation, and it must be us,” said the 21-year-old.
Higher enrollment could help reduce the pre-COVID-19 nursing shortage. But this brought its own problems: this increase, coupled with the departure of too many experienced nurses whose job it is to help educate students, has left many nursing programs without expansion.
The rise comes even as U.S. hospital executives report that thousands of nurses have left or retired during the outbreak, many exhausted and demoralized by the pressures of caring for the dying, hostility from patients and families, and frustration. knowing that many deaths can be prevented with masks and vaccinations.
Eric Kumor saw many of his fellow nurses from the COVID-19 unit in Lansing, Michigan move or switched jobs last spring as the third wave of the pandemic began. In July, he followed them out the door.
“It was like a mass exodus. Everyone chose their own health and well-being over the fight against the new wave, ”he said.
He said he plans to return to the medical facility someday, but now works at a barbecue where the worst thing that can happen is to “burn the brisket.”
“I haven’t finished caring for the sick yet,” he said.
Betty Joe Rocchio, chief nursing officer at Mercy Health, which operates hospitals and clinics in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, said there are about 8,500 nurses in her system, but she loses about 160 every month.
The departure also affects nursing education, which relies on clinical instructors and mentors, experienced nurses, to mentor students on the job.
The nursing faculty is expected to shrink 25% nationwide by 2025 as nurses retire or quit due to burnout or other reasons, said Patricia Hearn, dean of the Michigan School of Nursing.
Mindy Schibler, a cardiology nurse from Vancouver, Washington, taught nursing students for three years before dropping out in 2016. She said that she would like to continue teaching, but from a financial point of view, it is not profitable. She said she knows nursing professors who have multiple jobs or are contributing their retirement savings.
“How long can you subsidize your work?” she asked. “Nurses will earn twice as much in a few years as you do.”
Administrators said they would like to see more financial incentives such as tax breaks for instructors and mentors. Rocchio said it would also help have national licensing instead of state requirements, giving health systems more flexibility in training and recruiting.
Champlin, a Fresno state student who is now conducting clinical research in the COVID-19 unit, said the stress, even on students, can sometimes be overwhelming. It is physically and mentally exhausting to put on bulky protective gear every time you enter someone’s room and then watch as a tube is inserted into the throat of a frightened patient and the person is hooked up to a ventilator.
“I don’t even know when it will end,” she said. “Is this a new normal lifestyle? I think that by this moment it has already passed, and now we are all just exhausted. ” She confessed, “At times it made me rethink my career choices.”
Herne said the pandemic has led to an increasing focus on student mental health at her school, leading to the creation of programs such as Yoga on the Lawn.
“For nurses, you have to develop resilience skills to adapt to high workload conditions,” she said.
Monte, whose grandmother survived, said she believes the pandemic is waning and hopes for a long career despite the hardships.
“They really have a shortage of nursing staff right now, which is selfishly good for me because I won’t have any problems finding work wherever I go,” she said. “I feel that I will not burn out even if we have another emergency in the country. I feel like I’m going to be a nurse anyway. “