Thousands of Wisconsin nursing students face graduation uncertainty amidst need for more healthcare workers

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The latest coronavirus numbers in Wisconsin bring new concerns: more healthcare workers are needed as hospitals plan to be filled to capacity with patients.

Nursing students across the state are prepared to graduate this year, however, classes have been cancelled at colleges and universities and clinicals for nursing students have been cancelled as well, which means some of those 3,000 nursing students may not be able to graduate.

Bellin nursing student Lauren Harvey says no one knows when school will resume outside of their online classes, which means her projected graduation date could be pushed back.

“It is a concern because I’m going into my senior year and it’s a big year for getting ready to go out into that workforce as a registered nurse,” she says.

Because of coronavirus worries, nursing students are not able to take clinicals the traditional way.

Clinicals are supervised interactions with patients.

A student at Bellin needs 675 clinical hours to graduate.

“We’re in the last half for our seniors, the majority of seniors may have those clinicals done,” says Connie Boerst, president of Bellin College. “We are also seeing that many of our students are already working as a nurse tech or in an externship role, so they are already out there helping provide care during this turbulent time.”

This is good news for Bellin seniors who are expected to graduate in May, especially those who have been working as certified nursing assistants.

“I accepted a position at Bellin Health, so I’ve already been kind of on the front lines,” says Bellin senior Caroline Wagner. “Because my clinical experiences have been cancelled the rest of the semester, I’ve been able to use that experience already in my workforce to kind of guide my clinical journey for the rest of the semester.”

Not all nursing students in the state will be able to receive their diplomas so soon.

Which means the nursing gap will grow at a time their work is most critical.

“It would have devastating effects on our healthcare system because nurses are on the front line as well as the other healthcare providers,” says Boerst. “We are going to desperately need those to not only provide care, but to relieve some of those staff that are there.”

Bellin College in Green Bay has about 140 seniors that will graduate this May.

They also have smaller graduating classes in October and December.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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