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Aiken Tech nursing grads head straight to work the COVID-19 front line

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 6:32 PM EST
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GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - About 20 nursing students have just become reinforcements for our local hospitals after finishing their undergrad degree from Aiken Tech.

They’ll go from sitting in desks straight to putting on scrubs to help ease the nursing shortage at our local hospitals.

“As we know, a lot of our hospital partners say they need every last one of you,” said Dr. Forest E. Mahan, Aiken Tech president.

In the middle of a global pandemic, all 24 of colleges 2020 nursing students will be put on the front line, helping staff our local hospitals.

“I want to help my community here. I know we need nurses all around, there are nurses needed everywhere but we need to start at home,” student Kristin Huffman said.

Here at home, our hospitals say they are seeing a nursing shortage. Huffman wants to fill the gaps. She’ll be working in the ICU at Aiken Regional Medical Center.

“Not only are we caring for the patients going through a pandemic, but we are also the nurses going through a pandemic,” Huffman said.

Almost 100 percent of Aiken Tech’s nursing students go to work at CSRA hospitals, according to Dean of Nursing Hannah Williams.

“We’re trying every day to push out or create good, successful nurses who can join that workforce,” she said.

Aiken Tech says they have 10 to 20 percent fewer students in their nursing program this year, and the classes looked different too.

“Our students could not go to clinicals and that’s where we receive most of our hands-on experiences,” Williams said. “We had to come up with simulations, we had to come up with additional labs that will allow our students to gain those skills.”

Those skills will help relieve the pressure of nurses caring for COVID-19 patients.

“We can take care of the other patients who are not COVID-positive. We can assist them by taking care and helping out with other patients so that the nurses that are needed can focus on the COVID patients,” Williams said.

And these grads are ready to start helping.

“It makes me feel privileged that I can be a part to help. I have a purpose and I’m needed,” Huffman said.

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