PHOENIX — There's been a nursing shortage in Arizona for years, and the pandemic has exacerbated the demand. But it's not because of a lack of passion. The dean of ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation said Monday they have plenty of applicants but not enough spots.
Sonia Torres, a nursing student, said she was inspired to go into the profession by the nurses that took care of her after a surgery she had in her teens.
She had a tough time getting accepted into the Edson College of Nursing, but when she finally did, it was extra rewarding because she's the first person to go to college in her family.
“I’m just very glad I didn’t give up," she said. "When I told him (dad) that I got the acceptance call, we were just like jumping up and down, it was just super exciting for my family.”
She said COVID-19 has reinforced her decision to become a nurse.
"It actually helped me realize that I want to be an ER nurse, I love the adrenaline, and I want to help others when they’re at their lowest," she said. "My favorite part and the most rewarding thing is when the patient says 'thank you so much for being with me.'”
It's the same for Nathan Fine, who will graduate in December. Fine said he talks to nurses across the state daily.
“I can hear fear, and it’s meaningful to us in the nursing program that we’ve stayed on track, and we’re coming. We’re coming to help, and we’re coming to fill those voids and get through this," he said.
The nursing shortage in Arizona is nothing new, according to the school's dean Judy Karshmer.
“I think nothing has demonstrated more acutely how important nurses are --as the last year and a half," she said.
Karshmer said ASU has worked to address the shortage by expanding its programs. They've more than tripled the number of students they accepted in the last three years.
"We want to make sure that the workforce represents the diverse population here that we find in Arizona," she said.
They're focused on finding students an array of clinical placements, building more partnerships with Valley hospitals, health systems, and non-traditional settings.
"Where we are taking students so they can learn about home health, they learn about telehealth, they learn about working in the clinic. And by doing that we have been able to expand placements significantly," said the dean.
She said that also means having nursing opportunities in remote areas. This fall, ASU will start offering a nursing degree at their Lake Havasu campus.
ASU has 750 nursing students in total this year. They hope to keep expanding programs and enrollment capacity.