PUEBLO — Health care workers put their lives on the line when they go to work every day, but if they get sick, someone may need to step in and help. Nursing school students from CSU Pueblo will finish their semester on time, and right now, can start working before they take a test to become a registered nurse, to help as quickly as they can.
News5 was allowed to sit in on a class in the nursing program, where students are currently meeting virtually. On the day we joined, the students were discussing a prior simulation, where they analyze the symptoms of a fictional patient. In these classes, the students discuss what went well and identify any mistakes before they join the workforce. "I liked this. It wasn't as great as being able to go into the facility, but I think it's an okay compromise," said one of the student's in the class about the online setting.
With nursing being such a hands-on career, the students have encountered a few challenges continuing their courses virtually. "Downside is that you're not actually practicing your skills hands on, you know, so unfortunately we're not really getting to perfect our hands on with our patient and kind of how we communicate with patients, but I think for what it was, it was really helpful," said one of the students.
The professor of the course said the students enjoyed the feedback they got from the simulation, but missed having a connection with their patient.
The Associate Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences for CSU Pueblo, Joe Franta, said there are 74 students graduating on May 2 and 45 graduating at the end of the summer. "I think the nursing students are getting the content they need, and sure it's a little unnerving to go out into practice without maybe a little more direct patient care hours, however I think the skill set's there," said Franta.
Franta said this pandemic has not helped a historic shortage of nurses. "Through the year 2024, you know, some of the estimates put it at 400,000 across the nation as the shortage... During an event like this, obviously a lot of nurses and other providers, and allied health care providers are exposed to these illnesses and get sick, and then they can't work in the workforce. So, it's driving that shortage even moreso. And you know, in a pandemic situation, we have more and more patients than we'd anticipate in a normal environment, so for systems to adjust to that is a tremendous strain," said Franta.
The students graduating are now able to help even quicker than they would normally. Franta said Governor Jared Polis relaxed a rule that required graduates to become a registered nurse before being hired. "When they're students, they can work as a nurse extern, but after they graduate they're sort of disconnected and can't work hardly anywhere until they get their RN completed. This will allow those students to function as that nurse extern in between the time they can take their test, and graduation," said Franta.
Franta said nurse externs are supervised by other nurses and providers within a hospital. "The more nursing personnel that we can produce and put out there, the stronger our response would be for health care needs in the United States," said Franta.
CSU Pueblo has also loaned their ventilator to Parkview Medical Center for however long they may need it.
Franta said there are 375 students in their nursing program total.