COVID sowed doubts, but nursing student doubled down


NC neighborhood faculty and college directors say it’s too quickly to know the way the coronavirus pandemic affected curiosity in health-related fields. Some say the pandemic cemented their selections.

By Mona Dougani

Kate Schauss knew she needed to enter the medical subject for the reason that fifth grade, when her curiosity in drugs was sparked whereas dissecting a squid on a faculty subject journey. By her sophomore yr of highschool, she was sure nursing was the trail she would pursue.

Then the pandemic rattled the world in 2020 and he or she had some doubts.

“When COVID was actually dangerous, and all of the nurses had been simply working 100 hours straight, getting loopy burn out, I truly sort of second-guessed it,” mentioned Schauss, who will enter her last yr at UNC-Wilmington this fall to finish her nursing diploma. “To not the purpose the place I used to be like ‘I’m going to drop out,’ however simply reevaluating what being a nurse means.”

Now that vaccines are broadly obtainable all through the US, and new COVID-19 instances are reducing in North Carolina and throughout the nation, Schauss realized that her fears had fallen away.

“It undoubtedly impressed me,” mentioned Schauss, who desires to grow to be an emergency room nurse.

Throughout North Carolina, public college and neighborhood faculty directors say they’ve seen a gentle curiosity in enrollment in health-related packages and even a slight uptick in queries about nursing college. Although directors say it’s too quickly to definitively inform if COVID-19 impressed extra college students to enter well being care, there might be a correlation.

“I don’t suppose I even realized how vital nurses had been,” Schauss mentioned. “Nurses are such a spine to well being care, and I don’t suppose individuals, even nursing college students like myself, realized how vital the function was. In order that appreciation has undoubtedly impressed me to grow to be a nurse and be extra happy with that title.”

Lori Byrd, affiliate director of packages and well being sciences for the NC Group Schools system, mentioned COVID might have spurred extra curiosity within the well being care subject.

“We’ve actually by no means had something like this occur [before], however we have now had different health-related occasions occur up to now and other people do are likely to gravitate towards well being professions as a result of they wish to assist, they usually wish to be concerned,” Byrd mentioned in a latest interview.

Regular curiosity in well being careers

The state neighborhood faculty system noticed a one p.c improve in enrollment for nursing and well being sciences packages over the past yr, Byrd mentioned. That’s despite the fact that nationally, there was about an 11 p.c general decline for spring enrollment at neighborhood faculty or two-year packages, in keeping with the Nationwide Scholar Clearinghouse.

At most four-year faculties and universities, college students should take sure required programs earlier than being thought-about for nursing packages.

Louise Fleming, the UNC-Chapel Hill college of nursing affiliate dean of undergraduate packages, mentioned it might be one other yr or extra earlier than she and directors on different campuses know whether or not they’ll see larger curiosity in nursing and different well being care packages on account of the pandemic.

Some college students took time without work from college in the course of the pandemic. Others could have misplaced jobs or been in households that suffered economically and might be delaying plans for faculty.

“It’s attainable extra have an interest, however we additionally misplaced some due to COVID,” Fleming mentioned. “It’s too early to inform, I feel, and naturally, we’re nonetheless in COVID.”

North Carolina has nonetheless seen between roughly 600 and 700 lab-confirmed instances of COVID-19 per day over the previous week, in keeping with the state Division of Well being and Human Providers dashboard. At the moment, 53.4 p.c of the North Carolina inhabitants who’re 18 and older have gotten a minimum of one vaccination, as said by the dashboard.

Nonetheless, the UNC-Chapel Hill nursing college has seen a 19 p.c improve in functions for an accelerated program that permits individuals who have already got a bachelor’s diploma so as to add a nursing diploma to their resume in simply two years.

Whereas that quantity can catch your eye, Fleming mentioned, it’s not essentially pandemic-related. The college made latest adjustments to this system that would have contributed to the upper share, too.

Lynne Lewallen, affiliate dean for educational affairs for the college of nursing at UNC-Greensboro, is within the “it’s too early to know” camp, too.

“For the way in which we admit, we’d see that improve possibly subsequent yr as a result of our college students usually enter as freshmen, and we don’t see them till they’re sophomores,” Lewallen mentioned.

a young woman in scrubs and a mask gives another young nursing student a shot in the arm
Kate Schauss, left, getting her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine administered by Becky Beall, a pupil in her nursing program, at The Pointe 14 movie show in Wilmington, NC. {Photograph} courtesy of Kate Schauss.

UNC-Greensboro at the moment enrolls 236 college students for its program by which a bachelor’s diploma in nursing may be attained. That quantity hasn’t modified for the previous two years.

Western Carolina College officers inform the identical story of how their variety of nursing college students has remained regular from yr to yr.

“A number of of the well being care majors like nursing don’t admit till the junior yr and are capped packages, so the variety of nursing college students enrolling doesn’t actually change from yr to yr for the capped packages,” Phil Cauley, affiliate vice chancellor of undergraduate enrollment at WCU, mentioned just lately.

Future professionals

The scholars popping out of highschool within the years forward might be the true barometer on any piqued curiosity in well being care professions reminiscent of vaccine growth, the examine of viruses, public well being, respiratory remedy and nursing.

“I believe that nursing shall be on the radar of some highschool college students the place it wasn’t earlier than,” Lewallen mentioned.

Byrd had comparable ideas.

“, I feel that all of us will see well being careers general stay well-liked,” Byrd mentioned. “I feel that you just’re going to see an increasing number of highschool college students who’re investigating well being careers.”

Byrd, Fleming and Lewallen all mentioned they hope there shall be extra curiosity in nursing after COVID-19 shined such a harsh mild on what a wildly contagious virus can do to the world.

“As a result of nursing has been put within the public eye in the way in which it hasn’t been within the final 20 years, I feel it’s onerous to consider that there wouldn’t be some impact of extra individuals contemplating turning into a nurse,” Fleming mentioned. “I actually hope that’s the case, significantly in North Carolina the place we face a nursing scarcity, and that’s anticipated to worsen with our getting older inhabitants.”

For present nursing college students, reminiscent of Schauss, the pandemic has introduced monumental challenges whereas additionally presenting distinctive and rewarding alternatives.

“Final semester, I labored on the vaccine clinic,” mentioned Schauss, who helped out by giving photographs on the Pointe 14 movie show in Wilmington. “I used to be administering vaccines and simply being there, the those that got here in had been so appreciative of what we had been doing. They had been like, ‘You don’t know, like, how comfortable this makes me to have the ability to get this vaccine, and the truth that you guys as college students in a brilliant historic time are giving these vaccines,’ made me really feel actually nice to have the ability to try this.”

She mentioned her curiosity in serving to others has intensified for the reason that spring vaccination marketing campaign.

“I imply, if COVID has taught us something, it’s that there’s a scarcity of well being care employees,” Schauss mentioned. “Nursing particularly is extraordinarily understaffed. And truthfully, for my part, that’s dangerous to the sufferers as a result of their nurse can’t give them the time that they want as a result of she or he must go see another person.”

“If they only obtained extra individuals into well being care, then sufferers might have extra centered care from their nurses and never really feel like they’re simply one other particular person,” she mentioned. “I really feel prefer it’s so vital to simply make your affected person really feel heard and identified.”

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