Texas A&M University nursing students set to graduate this May will be able to pursue an accelerated graduation plan that allows them the opportunity to quickly enter the workforce to support the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The College of Nursing informed seniors late last week that they have the option to choose an early conferral of their degree. This comes after Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent announcement that he is waiving certain regulations to allow nursing students at the end of their education program and retired nurses to more easily join the workforce as the need for health care professionals continues to soar.
The state will allow temporary permit extensions to graduate and vocational nurses who haven’t yet taken the licensing exam. Students in their last semester of nursing school can also complete remaining hours needed to demonstrate their clinical competency via virtual simulations.
“What this did for us is allow an opportunity to confer the degree early and share that conferral with the State Board of Nursing so that they can grant this temporary permit to practice so students could pursue employment as a graduate nurse or offer services in other ways,” said College of Nursing Dean Nancy Fahrenwald.
Abbott said in a press release that Texas will continue to see a growing need for health care professionals to respond to the novel coronavirus crisis, and nurses are essential to the state’s ability to test for the virus and provide patient care. The state was already facing a nursing shortage before the pandemic, Fahrenwald said.
“We responded to Gov. Abbott’s changes and said, ‘What window of opportunity does this open for our Aggie nurses who will graduate in May 2020?'” Fahrenwald said. “We are very confident they are highly prepared to assume professional nursing roles.”
Faculty have put together a plan for assessment, remediation and final exit examination that allows students to graduate early and apply for a temporary permit to practice as a graduate nurse until they’re able to take the licensure exam.
“We’ve assured them that this an option for them,” Fahrenwald said. “They can retain their current graduation date and spread their requirements out over that time period just as we had planned, or we can accelerate their degree completion requirements.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has closed many of the sites where Aggie nursing students complete their clinical rotations. In response, College of Nursing faculty are using virtual simulation experiences for the first time to assess students’ clinical competency and help them achieve their final program requirements.
“This unprecedented circumstance has allowed us to really be creative and work together to come up with a solution that assures our students that the same program outcomes every other Aggie nurse has graduated under are the same ones that they will achieve, and that the standards and rigor of the program remain intact,” Fahrenwald said.
About 70 pre-licensure students are set to graduate this May – Fahrenwald said she expects many of them will choose to pursue accelerated degree conferral.
The College of Nursing was established in 2008. For the past three years, the college has had a 100 percent job placement rate for Bachelor of Science in Nursing students within one year of graduation.
This story was originally published by Texas A&M University.