Nursing students see path to graduation with state’s relaxed training requirements

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Many nursing students in their last semester were just days shy of meeting clinical requirements when the pandemic hit

FRESNO, California (KGPE) — California nursing students have been in limbo since the novel coronavirus pandemic became a huge obstacle to completing their required clinical hours.

However, after the state announced a waiver and new requirements Friday night, many students are now relieved they’ll be able to graduate on time.

Nicole Barnett is in the middle of her final semester in Fresno City College’s nursing program. She and many in her cohort were just days shy of meeting the required patient care training requirement — 75% of their overall training.

But, the pandemic caused many students to put a pause on their training, with many hospitals pulling them out to protect students and medical personnel. The move also helped conserve personal protective gear.

While Barnett understood why her clinical training had to stop, she said she got scared about her chances of graduating on time.

“It went from worry to acceptance, then maybe from acceptance to hoping we can change that,” she said.

Liliana Diaz, another nursing student in her final semester, had the same concerns — calling the last few weeks a “rollercoaster of emotions.”

Then hope came from the California Department of Consumer Affairs Friday around 8 p.m. The agency announced a waiver relaxing patient care requirements for nursing students statewide. Instead of 75%, students now only need 50% of patient care training. That training can now also be done through simulations and labs.

Diaz said she’s now doing the math.

“We’re calculating on our own [for right now] and we’re pretty sure we’ve reached — or are very close — to reaching that 50%,” she said.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled California Health Corps, an initiative to bring retired, part-tin or training health care workers onto the frontlines of the pandemic to help. Barnett said she was wary of signing up because it wasn’t clear it would help her graduate on time.

But, with news of the waiver, she’s relieved there’s now a clearer path for her.

“As we’re entering the workforce, it’s going to be a sort of trial by fire situation because [of the pandemic], ” Barnett said. “But, I’m glad we’re going to be able to be there and help soften the blow somewhat.”

The waiver will end in 60 days, unless it’s extended. The DCA estimated 9,000 nursing students statewide will benefit from this.

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