COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — The thrill of starting a new job is now coming with a hefty price for nursing students set to graduate during a pandemic. The state of Ohio is allowing graduates to work with temporary licenses to help with a potential surge of coronavirus patients in hospitals.
A new law passed by the Ohio General Assembly authorizes the Ohio Board of Nursing to issue temporary licenses to practice as a RN or LPN to nursing students who meet the remaining legal requirements, including completing a Board-approved nursing education program and criminal records check.
The state nursing board estimates 4,000 to 5,000 nursing students will be eligible for temporary licenses under the new law.
“I have about 5 weeks left,” said Kearstin Turner, a senior at Mount Carmel College of Nursing.
Turner’s lifelong dream is about to become a reality during the coronavirus pandemic.
“That is definitely scary because any time I’ve had a clinical I’ve never been worried about a shortage of gloves or masks or anything like that,” said Turner.
Turner graduates in early May.
She already has a job lined up with OhioHealth to work in neuromedicine.
“Lots of like stroke patients, for example, head injuries, that sort of thing,” said Turner.
Personal protective equipment shortages rattle those with years under their belts.
“As an experienced nurse, when I read things coming out of New York right now, I have a lot of concerns for things that I’m going to face as an experienced nurse,” said Michelle Thoman, with the Ohio Nurses Association.
The association appreciates the state being proactive and welcomes new nurses like Turner into the field but with some reservations.
"This is unprecedented and to expose them to those working conditions even as graduates we want to try to avoid that at all costs,” said Ohio Nurses Association’s Kelli Schweitzer.
Schweitzer says there are nurses who’ve either been laid off or furloughed due to staffing reductions from canceled elective surgeries who can be put back in rotation.
“Redeploying them to maybe doing testing or assessing other personnel, maybe doing some workplace health type of things other key things needed during this crisis,” said Schweitzer.
“I think the biggest thing is to offer those assurances that new grads will have appropriate orientation that for them is kind of business as usual,” said Thoman.
Turner says there won’t be a graduation ceremony and will get her diploma in the mail.
It is a moment in her life that is bittersweet.
“I chose this career because I love to help others and it’s super rewarding I want to go to work every day knowing that I love what I do and I’m helping people. [This] is definitely scary but I think it’s what I signed up for,” said Turner.
Turner says her professors have given advice on how to adapt.
“They just said be calm during this. Try to be as calm as you can, wash your hands, don’t freak out. That’s the main thing,” said Turner.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton talked during today’s news conference about having a team working on the staffing workforce issue.
Dr. Acton says in some places, online training is underway to help nursing students or nurses who have been in other kinds of work to train them for their job. She also discussed using early year med and nursing students as "amateur disease detectives" and that they are building a curriculum to train for when they need boots on the ground for contact tracing.