Wisconsin could approve student nurses to work during coronavirus pandemic

Nurse wearing blue uniform
Posted at 10:13 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 23:46:00-04

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin hospitals are already facing a nursing shortage, and now the state board is trying to come up with a plan to help during the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the plan includes allowing nursing students to start working now.

Nurse wearing blue uniform

"We need to have everybody we possibly can working and working at the capacity that they are able to work at," said Patti Varga, dean of JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professionals at Alverno College.

Wisconsin considers student nurses to help with coronavirus pandemic
Wisconsin considers student nurses to help with coronavirus pandemic

The state's Board of Nursing met Wednesday to figure out how to get more nurses into Wisconsin to assist in the pandemic.

Here are the changes they want to see happen:

  • Allow retired nurses or nurses with expired licenses to be reinstated to work
  • People from out of state to use their nursing licenses in Wisconsin
  • Allow nursing students who have 75% of their clinical work complete and are in the second semester of their senior year to work in Wisconsin.

It is a move that Gloria Jacobson, dean of the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing and Health Science at Cardinal Stritch University, said has happened before during other health emergencies in our country.

"They served during Katrina when that crisis occurred. Groups of students from schools went helped in those kind of situations," said Jacobson.

Both colleges say a student nurse could ease the burden in a hospital that is overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

"The students may also be used in other situations to free up nurses who have been doing that, so they can attend to that work, and perhaps some of these new nurses will be doing other activities, caring for other patients who are not as critically ill," said Jacobson.

The board member agreed to the plan Wednesday. But now, it either needs a special exemption from the governor or legislators need to hold a special session and approve the changes. If they are approved, they would only go into effect for only a few months.

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