Colorado nursing schools request waiver to graduate students, get them on the front line

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DENVER (KDVR) — Nursing students across Colorado are facing some serious challenges during a time when their help is greatly needed.

In order to graduate and work on the front lines, students need a certain number of clinical hours. However, with the threat of coronavirus, many clinical programs are suspended. 

Crystal Choi is set to graduate nursing school in September at Denver College of Nursing.

Right now, she’s on break from class but doing her part by working as an advanced care partner at University Hospital.

“I had to be tested too because I was afraid I got exposed so I’ve been limited on my work,” Choi said. 

Without a degree, Choi feels she’s limited in how much she can help during this time of great need.

“There’s so little we can actually do to help,” Choi said, “I know they need people, but we’re stuck.”

When Choi’s classes resume next week, she’s going to be learning virtually.

“So far, a lot of clinicals have been canceled,” Choi said. 

If the future, nurses in Colorado do not get enough clinical hours, University of Colorado’s College of Nursing faculty fears what could happen.

“It really has a domino effect,” University of Colorado College of Nursing Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs Tammy Spencer said. “Were talking about thousands of students across the state of Colorado who may not graduate, so that’s a really big deal big picture.”

Spencer says Colorado is already experiencing a statewide nursing shortage and the caseload with coronavirus is going to truly stretch the system in place.

Last week, colleges and nursing leaders across Colorado came together to create a request for the state board, Department of Regulatory Agencies and the governor.

“We have asked for a waiver on some of those rules and regulations that would allow our students to progress and graduate in a timely manner,” Spencer said. 

Spencer says they are asking the state board to decrease clinical hour requirements for graduation and replace them with more simulations, telemedicine and volunteer experiences that students are currently able to accomplish. 

“Now we have different opportunities within the community that are filling a need in the community and helping our students get their hours,” CU College of Nursing Senior Director of Experiential Learning Team Fara Bowler said. “We’re not decreasing our standards in any way, we are just ensuring we can get out in the workforce quickly and efficiently during this crisis.”

FOX31 contacted the state board to see the status of this waiver request. This is the response received late Monday afternoon from a representative via email:

“The Board of Nursing has received a number of requests from educational institutions relating to waivers. The Division of Professions and Occupations staff are reviewing statutes, rules and policies to determine the Division’s jurisdiction in these areas and possible next steps.

The Nursing Board’s next full meeting is scheduled for April 22 but any emergency options could be enacted well before that date, pending on the findings gleaned from this ongoing review.”

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