At Oakland University, pandemic attracts nursing students who want to be part of the solution – The Oakland Press

As the number of students in Oakland University nursing programs remains stable or increasing slightly, the COVID-19 pandemic has added new momentum.

“It’s interesting when we first entered the pandemic, it was my biggest worry that it would prevent students from wanting to enter nursing,” said Judy Didion, PhD, RN and Dean of the OU nursing school.

This does not happen.

“I think young people who are thinking of working in nursing and health care – I think it attracted a lot of students because they saw what was going on. Every day they saw what was going on in nursing. It seemed like we were attracting a lot of students who wanted to be part of the solution, ” Didion said. “And they felt like it was an exciting place where they could really make a difference in the lives of patients. “

Oakland offers a four-year nursing degree, a second-degree accelerated nursing program, and a graduate degree.

“In some ways it kind of changed things so people weren’t just going into nursing because it was a good job. They were going into nursing because they had a passion for it, ”Didion said. “So we haven’t seen a drop in registrations. I think the other element to that is I think we’ve probably seen an increase in the number of students entering nursing who really understand the reality of nursing and what they’re getting into and still want. be a nurse.

In the past, she said that there were students who entered the nursing program and didn’t realize how intimate nursing was with the patient and how much it took to reach out to people and deal with challenges. things that are not pleasant.

“For some reason, they saw this glorified image of a nurse, maybe on some TV shows,” Didion said. “You may be very smart and love science and people, but it’s very different from a lot of other health professions. … I always tell the students that you have to respect this person to allow yourself to be this close and they are counting on you to take care of them and not be disgusted by it. You have to be professional and understand that it is the human body that you work with and parts of our human body that is not always pleasant, especially when someone is sick. ”

At Oakland University, students are accepted into the nursing program for their second year after completing the basic prerequisites as freshmen. They welcome 96 students each fall and 96 more each winter.

For the accelerated program, they each host 62 students during the fall, winter and summer.

“We had a lot of students. If our first year class – enrollments overall are down – it could reduce the number of students available to apply to our major. I’m worried about it, but so far it’s been fine, ”Didion said.

Because hospitals are losing nurses at a constant rate – due to early retirements or other opportunities – she said they heard lawmakers talk about how they can increase the number of nursing students.

“Part of the reason we’re kind of limited in the number of students we take is that we have to have placements in health systems for our students to learn, they have to practice. clinic, ”Didion said.

“It’s a bit of a catch 22. Hospitals need nurses, but they are understaffed and don’t have enough time to welcome new learners. We have professors with them, we really work closely with the hospitals to try to understand how we can work together so that our students have these clinical placements and can learn in their hospitals. It is a greater chance for them to apply for a job there. It’s a win-win for everyone, ” she added.

Nationally, enrollments in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in nursing increased 5.6% in 2020 from the previous year to just over 250,000 students, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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