NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Doctors and nurses have been pushed to the limit over the past months with the growing number of COVID-19 patients, and their efforts are inspiring many to seek out careers in healthcare.
Both the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Vanderbilt University in Nashville have seen significant upticks in nursing program enrollment.
UT's College of Nursing hit an all-time high for enrollment during the Fall 2020 semester with more than 1,000 students. More than 300 of those future nurses will graduate to join the workforce in the spring.
Linda D. Norman, dean at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, says they’re already seeing an 8% increase in applications for fall of 2021.
University officials admit they weren't sure how the pandemic would impact their next class of nurses.
Right now they're seeing more applicants who already have their bachelors in nursing and are coming back to be an advanced practice nurse.
The other place they’re seeing an increase is people who want a post-masters certificate.
"So they’re already an advanced-practice nurse and now they want to add something," Norman said. "Emergency nurse practitioner is one of those as well as psych nurse practitioner. That’s where we’re see a big increase.”
Along with the nursing school, Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine is also seeing an increase in applications for its fall 2021 class.
Norman says the university will meet with a group of researchers who look at the nursing workforce about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on interest in nursing.
She said they're seeing more applicants talk about the pandemic in their applications.
Experts say if the applications are any indication, what they're seeing is an increased interest in nursing.
"Our questions are 'has it enhanced people’s interests in nursing?' or when you see all the faces of people who are tired and you see the frustration that they have - 'is it a negative impact?' Norman said. "I think there’s going to be some research that’s going to be done."
Dean Norman says its an important time in healthcare and important time for nurses to be recognized for their contribution, whether in or out of COVID units.