The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright light on healthcare professionals and the need for more across the country.
Xavier University, in Cincinnati, is working to fill the shortage by launching new programs across the state of Ohio. The college just added a third accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree based in Cleveland. It's a fast-paced program where students can earn a ABSN degree in just 16 months.
“It’s been interesting with the pandemic and COVID to start a new program but we were very prepared," said Dr. Sandra Harris.
Dr. Harris is the associate director of Cleveland's ABSN program. She said the first class, which began in May, consisted of just nine students, but that grew to 41 with the second class which began in August. Dr. Harris said the hope is that each cohort is comprised of 70 students to reach full capacity.
"It's been very positive," she said. "The students are excited to be here."
The 16 months consists of 63 credit hours of online and onsite learning. The students complete the coursework online, take simulation labs at the Learning Center, based in Independence, and work alongside trained, professional nurses for clinicals partnering with the Cleveland Clinic.
Though the pandemic is causing some roadblocks for students, the program came at an opportune time. Ohio, and much of the nation, is currently facing a shortage of nurses and healthcare professionals.
“In acute care, in rehab and the emergency departments," Dr. Harris said.
But the field has growing interest. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029 - faster than the average for all occupations.
Breanna Harper is one of the 41 students currently enrolled in the program. She earned a four-year degree earlier this year from Drexel University, located in Philadelphia, but she's hitting the books once again hoping to fulfill her dreams of becoming a nurse.
"It's what I'm passionate about," she said. "I've been taking care of people my whole life. I just want to help people feel their best self."
The young professional moved to Cleveland from Vallejo, California specifically for the Xavier program and its affiliation with the Cleveland Clinic.
“It's the perfect environment to learn what you need to learn to be a nurse. It’s a dream come true almost. You can’t ask for a better clinical experience," she said.
Harper is currently working inside the Cleveland Clinic to earn her clinical hours. She said seeing the healthcare professionals in action has given her a new appreciation for their work.
"It takes a lot of love and a lot of dedication for what you're doing to come into work 12 hours, sometimes more, every single day with a smile on your face and you're not showing any strain or stress meanwhile they have other stuff going on like kids or a family," she said. "It's a lot of respect I have for them and it just shows how passionate you have to be to be in this type of field."
Collin Ninke is also enrolled in the program. He said the program is certainly tough but he's enjoying the hands-on experience inside the hospitals.
“It’s been tough. It’s been a handful but they give it to you in a really scheduled out way," he said.
Ninke said he hopes to work inside an intensive care unit or emergency room after graduating next December.
For Harper, her dream is to work inside a labor and delivery unit.
Xavier's next 16-month program begins in January. For more information about what is required to sign up, click here.
This story was first reported by Meg Shaw at WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio.