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Need for Nurses More Critical Than Ever During COVID

Nurses already in high demand in the Ohio Valley are needed now more than ever with COVID-19 surging across the country.

Gail Nickerson, director of Nursing at Wheeling University, said the pandemic has highlighted the critical need for nurses in the United States and world.

“This past year, the world has seen how profoundly important nurses are to society,” she said. “As the nursing shortage continues to grow, the university recognizes the need for educating and preparing nursing students to provide safe, quality care. We also recognize the need to offer programs that provide a broad understanding of public health concepts in other health care disciplines.”

Attempting to train the nurses needed during a global pandemic has proven a challenge for many institutions.

“Nursing programs across the country are up against unique challenges related to educating nurses in a society facing social distancing, isolation and quarantine measures, while continuing to offer clinical experiences,” Nickerson said.

“Nursing education must continue to evolve in curriculum and technology to develop our next generation of nurses. Our students at Wheeling University have adapted relatively well to changes in hospital protocols and university policies regarding COVID.”

At the Belmont-Harrison Career Center, high school students can obtain a nursing-related education. Students there can get nurse aide and nurse assistant training.

“Our numbers in Allied Health Science are lower than usual. That may have to do with the pandemic because our recruiting was limited last year,” said Maura Birney, instructor for Allied Health Science at the career center.

“Some nursing programs may require a Nurse Aide certification first. If not, it may also be a useful prerequisite. Nursing can be a rewarding career.

“Nurse Aide training is an excellent way to get started in the healthcare field. You will always have a job with benefits in healthcare,” Birney added.

She noted the career center also offers a Pharmacy Technician program.

At Wheeling University, Nickerson noted her students are slated to help vaccinate people as part of a community service project.

“The students are witnessing firsthand what they will face when they enter the workforce, and they are preparing for that challenge,” she said.

As the need for nurses continues to increase, schools will likely partner with facilities.

“It has become evident how truly essential nurses are when providing safe, quality patient care. There is a high demand for nurses in the hospital setting. We have also seen an increased need for nurses as part of home health services and in long-term care facilities,” Nickerson said.

“The needs at these locations have expanded and become more complex. As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in our community, we are grateful for our partnerships with local healthcare facilities.”

She noted such collaborations allow for educating the students and assisting them with job placement after graduation.

“Their experience on the front lines will help shape them into the future leaders of our healthcare community to implement positive changes in healthcare policy,” Nickerson said.

Nickerson said Wheeling University has a four-year undergraduate program, in addition to an accelerated BA/BS to BSN program.

“The accelerated program is designed to prepare working professionals with a bachelor’s degree in another discipline to become professional nurses who are eligible for licensure as a registered nurse,” she said.

“Often students graduate with a bachelor’s degree in another field of study and then find difficulty finding employment.

“This 16-month BA/BS to BSN program is an excellent choice for that population of students. We also have an RN-BSN program which can be completed fully online in one year.

“We offer a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a Family Nurse Practitioner track and a Nursing Administration track.”

Several other local colleges and universities offer various nursing degrees including West Liberty University, Belmont College, West Virginia Northern Community College and the B.M. Spurr School of Practical Nursing at WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale.

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