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Nursing schools readying next generation of health care workers

School administrators are adjusting curriculum to ensure nursing students are ready for the workforce.
Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 4:06 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2020 at 6:35 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Short staffed hospitals are anxiously awaiting the next round of nursing school graduates.

“I think everybody knows being able to graduate the nursing students in the middle of a pandemic is critically important to make sure that we have the workforce that we need,” said Barabara Pinekenstein, the Interim Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for UW-Madison School of Nursing.

Currently, there are 1,047 students enrolled in the UW-Madison School of Nursing.

Nursing students are balancing virtual classes, clinicals, and part-time jobs.

“It is very stressful right now for nursing students and I think healthcare students overall just like it’s stressful for nurses and staff in the hospital,” said Pinekenstein.

Many students already work in a healthcare setting as a nursing assistant or doing clerical work for hospitals.

“Our students are in extremely high demand,” Kerri Kliminski, Madison College Nursing Co-Program Director. “Their job prospects are amazing, but they’re juggling a lot.”

Madison College has made strides to provide a simulated environment nurses are using for clinical training. There are around 400 students in the core nursing classes between the three campus locations of Madison, Reedsburg and Eastern, which is a combination of Watertown and Fort Atkinson.

“Our biggest challenge has been providing our experiential component of education,” said Kliminski. “So getting students into those clinical environments and having them provide direct hands on patient care.”

In March, Governor Evers waived the requirement that nurses needed to not use more than 50 percent of clinical training hours as simulated hours.

“We do have some students that are doing their clinical practicums fully in a simulated environment,” said Kliminski. “With the understanding that nothing truly takes the place of hands on, bedside patient care in unpredictable environments with unpredictable human beings,” she added.

Nursing educators at Edgewood College have noticed a shift in course load for graduate students.

“Because most of them work in leadership capacities at local hospitals are working so many hours, they’re either putting off enrolling or they’re going back to being part-time students instead of full-time students,” said Colleen Gullickson, the Interim Dean at the Henry Predolin School of Nursing at Edgewood College.

Madison College has reported a similar change in students scaling back classes.

“I think the reality of what some people are juggling in this moment is so significant and extreme that they’re needing to make choices to put a gentle pause on moving forward with their educational aspirations and their future career goals,” said Kliminski.

Educators are doing their best to support the next wave of troops on the front line.

“We’re really preparing nurses for state of the art care in the field,” said Pinekenstein.

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