Sun, May 26, 2024

New crop of nurses hitting the job market

A new cohort of 50 nurses and patient care technicians is ready to be snapped up by a healthcare industry hungry for staff. Aiken Technical College (ATC) held the traditional pinning ceremony on Dec. 11 for the most recent graduates of their healthcare programs.

Dr. Hannah Williams, Dean of the School of Nursing, said current and growing job openings make for an extremely bright future for graduates.

“We know in healthcare, there are so many deficits, that we’re short nurses, we’re short patient care techs, often, our students have a job before they even graduate,” she said.

Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), posted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) bear out her prediction.

The BLS report anticipates an increase of 195,400 nurses by 2031. However, it projects a need for 203,200 openings every year for registered nurses in particular during that time frame.

One of those ready to fill the demand is 21-year-old, Melanie Roe, “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. That’s something that God instilled in me as a young child,” she said.

The salutatorian for her class, who plans to work for the Veterans Administration facilities in Augusta, would like to see others enter the field.

“It’s not easy. It’s not a walk in the park. Nursing School is hard,” she cautioned. “But it’s so worth it when you get to walk across that stage and when you get your dream job,” she added.

At age 29, John Cofer is considered a non-traditional student, someone who attends college beyond the normal, post-high school, age range. He had a career as a dental assistant before returning to school to pursue nursing.

“I think I can answer for most of us. You know, most of the people here have a passion for caring and helping other people,” he said. “A lot of us have nurses who are family members. A lot of us are going to be the first ones in our family to actually graduate from a nursing program of any kind. So, we pretty much see that as a way to help people more efficiently.”

AACN said the nursing industry is also hamstrung by schools struggling to expand capacity to meet the rising demand. That will soon change at Aiken Tech. The school is planning to build a 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Nursing Education Center.

“Overall, I will say the one word I will give you is growth,” said Williams. “With this new facility, this will allow us to increase our enrollment, we will have larger class spaces where we can have more students come in. Growth for our program as a whole and the school.”

ATC expects the planning phase to last through this year with a groundbreaking in early 2024. It should take about 18 months to complete construction.

Cofer believes people should consider nursing as a career.

“I say do it. It’s going to be a struggle. But like they say, nothing worth having is going to be easy,” he said.

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