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Some UNG nursing students getting to work early following March nursing board decision

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Georgia health care providers will soon be receiving an influx of new nurses, many of whom will be coming straight from the University of North Georgia’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. 

A March decision from the Georgia Board of Nursing allows all nursing students in Georgia who graduated in December of 2019 or who will graduate in May of 2020 to go immediately into the workplace before passing their Nation Council Licensure Exam. 

Now, roughly 200 UNG nursing students who either graduated last December or will be graduating in a few weeks can begin working as nurses before getting officially registered — an opportunity that UNG Nursing Department Head Sharon Chalmers said will be a welcome relief for the medical community. 

“Georgia is already in a nursing deficit,” Chalmers said. “We have a shortage of nurses in the hospital system. This would allow those that have graduated to go ahead and get into our hospital systems, and hopefully decrease the burden that is happening right now.”

Chalmers said the program will be beneficial for both the graduates and health care providers. 

While hospitals get more workers quickly, prospective nurses get experience in the field earlier than they normally would. With many NCLEX testing sites closed down, it could take months for a graduate of a nursing program to get licensed, and the extra downtime to study does not help nearly as much as actual participation in the field, according to Chalmers.

“This keeps them in the system and keeps them focused on their ultimate goal,” she said. “Which is preparing for their exam and being successful when they eventually take it.”

UNG’s December and May graduates are already starting to take advantage of the new program. 

Sarah Vancea, who will graduate this May, will be going straight to work in the Grady Memorial Hospital emergency room. 

She had already received an offer to work at Grady pending her licensure, but now she will not have to wait to take her exam.

“It was actually a really easy decision for me,” Vancea said. “I got my dream job in the Grady ER, so as soon as I heard I could start working right away I was ready. I’m ready to get to work, and I’m ready to help.”

Vancea added that while she does have some concerns regarding adequate personal protective equipment being provided to nurses, she is overall not concerned about going straight to the frontlines. 

Part of that comes from regular prayer and belief that she will be OK. The rest comes from her faith in the thoroughness and competency of the UNG nursing program.

“I think everyone coming out of school has their apprehensions about it,” she said. “I would be more worried if the program at UNG wasn’t so comprehensive. I really feel like they’ve prepared me for this.”

Chalmers said she believes the majority of UNG’s 200 nursing graduates in the last two classes will take advantage of the opportunity to get into hospitals now, news that will be a major relief to all the struggling health care providers around the state.

“This is a great program to get the graduate nurses out in the workforce, which is what we need,” Chalmers said.