Coronavirus: Nursing students dive into career early to help with pandemic

Wright State nursing students who graduate in May 2020 will be able to begin working in health care settings with temporary licenses. CONTRIBUTED

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Wright State nursing students who graduate in May 2020 will be able to begin working in health care settings with temporary licenses. CONTRIBUTED

Wright State University senior nursing students — its largest graduating class ever — will be able to help fight the coronavirus pandemic sooner than expected, thanks to the emergency use of temporary licenses.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill that temporarily suspends the requirement that nursing graduates pass their state exam before being allowed to practice to help alleviate the need for nurses.

“This is great news for the nurses and the community as they will be able to get out to help with this pandemic sooner than we expected,” said Deborah Ulrich, interim dean of the College of Nursing and Health. “It is even more exciting as the May 2020 class of B.S.N. graduates is the biggest class ever for Wright State University, with 120 students. This will be a huge help to our community as they fight COVID-19.”

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The Ohio State Board of Nursing also said it would allow students who have some clinical work left to complete the necessary work virtually. As the Wright State nursing students were able to finish their clinical work doing virtual activities and simulations, the graduating nursing class will graduate on time, Ulrich said.

Although the students will not be activated until at least graduation, Ulrich said the students are excited about jump-starting their career after the second week of May.

“This is what they wanted to do and they’re very excited that they’re going to get to be involved,” Ulrich said.

Most nursing grads will not be directly in the ICU, Ulrich said, but they will be part of the frontline health-care team.

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“They may be taking care of the patients who are less severe and not in the ICU with COVID-19,” Ulrich said. “But some of them may make it in there. You just don’t know.”

Not only is the 2020 nursing class the largest ever to graduate from Wright State, but 26 additional nurses will be graduating from the Wright State Lake Campus — taking the total to almost 150 new nurses.

“Most of them are local, too,” Ulrich said. “Not all, but the vast majority are local and they stay local. So that’s what makes it even more special, that they’re actually going to be in our community, serving the communities that they live in.”

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Such a big undertaking does not come without some nervousness, Ulrich said, and students might even be scared at times — just like everyone can be.

“The reason is, this isn’t like the flu,” Ulrich said. “This isn’t like something we know anything about. Every day we’re learning new things about this disease and we really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Watching the progression of the virus in places like New York City and hearing about other nurses not able to return home or having to stay in hotels can take a toll on nurses everywhere, especially nurses only beginning their career.

“Still, when they came into nursing, they came in for a reason,” Ulrich said. “They know that they have the knowledge how to keep themselves safe and I think they also know that they need to ask for what they need … For the most part, I think they’re excited but a little nervous and a little scared. But we’ll get through this, that’s what I tell all of them.”

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