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Nursing students graduating early to help ease strain from pandemic

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BATON ROUGE - Nursing seniors at Franciscan University have been graduating early all year to help alleviate nurse shortages during the pandemic.

Most recently, a group got their diplomas last month. Though this batch of nurses didn't have a drive-thru graduation like groups earlier in the year, all 38 November graduates will be cruising into new careers very soon.

Alexandra Stutes will begin her RN job at Ochsner in New Orleans on Monday.

"I was very excited just because I know there's such a need for nurses right now and then also getting to start work early. That's something that I was looking forward to. Most of my classmates seemed pretty excited as well," Stutes said.

Paris Gil chose to take time off to study for her nurse certification exam. She'll begin work in January.

"It's definitely scary, but I definitely feel prepared. And I definitely feel like the school prepared us," Gil said.

Seeing some of her friends graduate early back in April, she says she thought the pandemic would be winding down by the time she was set to graduate.

"Whenever the class before me graduated, it was kind of more scary for them. Wow this is real they're graduating and they're definitely going out into the pandemic, and I never imagined that we'd still be graduating in a pandemic."

But her concern comes less from possibly having to work on the front lines of a pandemic and more from not being sure where she'll end up, as the nursing shortage is affecting all hospital units.

"A lot of their nurses were pulled to COVID units, so that's really what the transition is. You're not sure if you're unit is going to be staffed because more experienced nurses go to COVID units or the ICU is understaffed because their nurses are going to COVID units."

The rest of the class will graduate on Dec. 12. Fran U says they may have another early graduation in the spring as well.


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