Charlotte ECPI University nursing students hit the front line to battle COVID-19 before graduating

N.C. changes rules, allows nursing students to jump into workforce during COVID-19 pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - To keep up with the number of patients in hospitals right now, the state board of nursing is changing some rules to get more nurses into the workforce.

They’re letting retired nurses or nurses with expired licenses come back into the workforce. They’re also making exceptions for nurses about to graduate.

There are five weeks left until school is over for nursing students at East Coast Polytechnic Institute in Charlotte. For them, everything they need to know about COVID-19 can’t be found in any of their textbooks. The virus is too new.

They’re jumping in and picking up as they go.

“Now we’re on fast forward and we’re kind of flying into it,” said Stephenie Lumsden as she explains what it’s like for her classmates to be on the frontline.

With dreams of working in emergency medicine, Lumsden will soon be right behind them.

“This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Lumsden.

The challenge that lies ahead is something she says she’s ready for. Lumsden and the rest of her class spent countless hours shadowing doctors and nurses to complete a required clinical clerkship so they could help people, especially during critical moments.

“As far as our background, most of us our CNAs, med techs, that wanted to further our nursing careers. So, a lot us already have a medical background and we draw off of that to kind of get us through the day,” said Lumsden.

She says traditionally, new nurses get at least a few months of training. But the way the virus is spreading, she knows she might be asked to be more hands-on as early as her first day if the number of hospital patients climbs.

“Is it going to turn into one-month of training, because this is going on now? And I know they need people now,” said Lumsden.

Her biggest concern right now -- if there’s enough protective gear wherever she ends up working.

“That’s a little spooky. Yeah, that’s worrisome,” she said.

Graduating nursing students at ECPI were supposed to have a special pinning ceremony on May 22nd. It’s been pushed back for a later time. Lumsden says when her class finally has the chance to be recognized, it’ll mean so much more now.

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