COVID-19 coronavirus’s ripple effects extend so far beyond health and health care. Life in the United States doesn’t look the same as it did a few months ago. We’re all affected in some way, but senior nursing students have a distinct set of circumstances related to the pandemic.

Career Plans Are Adjusted, Not Canceled

The final year of nursing school is exciting. Finishing up clinical rotations, studying for NCLEX, and starting the hunt for jobs. All of this was halted when COVID-19 hit the United States. Nursing students are unable to complete clinical rotations in hospitals because of restrictions, and NCLEX exams have been canceled or postponed. Senior nursing students are seeing delays entering the workforce as planned. Moreover, many nursing students are the challenges nurses and other healthcare providers are facing during the pandemic and may have fears or questions about the career they are about to enter.

Don’t Question Your Career Choice

As I reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic and tried to think of what nursing students are going through, I remembered my first year as a nurse. It was 2009. I was graduating in May, finishing up my final clinical rotations in public health, and working on my resume. Then in April, H1N1 emerged in the United States and spread to become a pandemic.

I remember being fearful of how it would impact my patients, me, and my family at home if I were to become infected at work. I remember many meetings to review the recommendations for caring for H1N1 patients, the screening procedures that were put in place, and personal protective equipment (PPE) we had to don. I remember the first patient I cared for that had H1N1. I remember the conversations I had with seasoned nurses who helped guide and support me as I navigated my first pandemic as a nurse. I remember feeling some of my fear subside as I learned more and became informed about the invisible enemy we were fighting.

How H1N1 affected life, health care, and nursing was different than how COVID-19 is affecting those things today. But I see two commonalities: using knowledge to combat fear and nurses supporting each other. 

The Power of Nursing

This time in history is scary, and we are facing many unknowns. But nursing students set to graduate are in a unique position to see how the profession they are entering responds to a crisis. How nurses are working together to protect themselves, other nurses, and the greater good of the country. How they are educating the public and advocating for the health of the majority. How they are lifting each other up during a stressful time and innovating in their day-to-day work. These characteristics are not new for COVID-19; they are at the heart of what we do every day at any point in time. It is great to see it on display for the larger public so they can understand the strength of the nursing profession.

To all you senior nursing students and new graduate nurses, I’m sorry. I’m sorry this is happening during such an important transition in your life. But I’m glad you can witness the power of nursing. I’m glad you get to see how your soon-to-be peers are handling this pandemic, advocating for the profession, and caring for patients even when faced with numerous obstacles. I’m glad we have an eager group of new professionals, ready and waiting to join us even under what seem like overwhelming circumstances. And I want you to know that we’ll be here to support you as you step to our side.