University of Texas at Arlington

College Nursing Program Works to Meet Demands of Workforce Shortage

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Parkland hospital is down 500 nurses from where it should be for adequate staffing. That’s according to the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Joseph Chang.

Nursing schools are feeling the pressure. They continue their work behind the scenes to get nurses to the front lines.

Meagan Rogers is Associate Chair for the undergraduate nursing program at the University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“Our students know the job ahead of them is going to be a difficult one, but every one of them has a reason for why they joined our profession,” said Rogers.

She said the greatest challenge is producing a competent workforce and doing it quickly.

“When people in the public hear that there are no beds available, most often that means there are no staff to care for patients that come into the hospital,” she said.

UTA has the largest public nursing program of its kind in the country. They’ve produced more than 3,000 nursing graduates since the start of the pandemic. And yet it doesn’t seem to be enough against the surging number of COVID-19 cases.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins reported Thursday just 23 adult ICU beds were available in the county. On the same day, Stephen Love of the DFW Hospital Council reported there were no staffed pediatric ICU beds available in the 19-county region. In Tarrant County, adult ICU beds are at 90% occupancy.

A spokesperson at Parkland Hospital said recently they’ve gone from having a PPE crisis to now facing a caregiver crisis.

Rogers said UTA’s nursing school has gone from admitting 300 students twice per year, to admitting roughly 400 twice per year. Rogers said the state board of nursing has even found ways to streamline certification, which she said took two to three months pre-pandemic. Students must still meet all requirements and complete clinical hours. Rogers said this simply means the process isn't as cumbersome.

“Students who’ve worked 135 hours can be cleared for licensure even if their final semester hasn’t ended yet,” said Roger. “So, we’re able to move that process quicker.”

She said her students are prepared and they’re brave, but they’re also concerned. She tells us textbook knowledge is not enough to prepare their students for the mental toll they’ll face caring for patients during a global pandemic.

Despite the challenges, they’ll be there on the front lines.

“We’re committed to ensuring that as soon as they finish that final capstone experience and all of the clinical hours that we work quickly to get them licensed and at the bedside where they’re greatly needed,” said Rogers.

Rogers said 70 students will graduate in less than a week. Another 400 are expected to complete the nursing program in December.

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