Nursing students prepare for hard work and long days

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Night after night, we’re telling you about major staffing shortages that are crippling our health care system.

Hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and ambulance companies are understaffed and those in the pipeline to fill some major gaps, are feeling some major anxiety about what the future holds.

Shauna Topian grew up in Victor. After high school, she attended the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music.

“I moved to New York City after graduation and I got to do a lot of concerts, I did an off-Broadway show, she told News10NBC.

After years on stage, the pandemic hit.

“Some of my best friends are nurses and I’ve always looked up to nurses, they’ve always been like heroes through everything so, I was like thinking especially with the pandemic, this is something that I want to do,” Topian explained.

At age 26, Topian decided on a career change. She is currently a student at the University of Rochester’s School of Nursing. She’s enrolled in an accelerated program meant to get students trained and into nursing jobs within 12 months.

“Anyone who has a bachelor’s degree or higher in anything can come into our program,” explainrf Jennifer Zugnon, an RN and Senior Associate at the UR School of Nursing.

Students get hands-on experience so they have a realistic idea of what they’ll be walking into once they graduate and become a registered nurse.

“You’re always boots-to-the-ground as soon as you hit it, but I think we are preparing them to be great critical thinkers especially now that there’s a shortage, you really have to be prepared you’re going to maybe not get as much of that precepting as you did before,” explained Zugnon.

The current nursing shortage is something Topian and her classmates discuss often, how quickly they’ll be thrown into the work and how long their days will be.

“[I’m] nervous, even going into clinical and not having a lot of background in the medical field I was very nervous but I think that something performing actually taught me is, just like going before you’re ready and knowing that you take what comes,” she said.

The students know they’ll be in high demand so, the pay should be good and the competition to recruit them, fierce.

“I’ve grown up in Rochester so part of me thinks, Strong is such an amazing hospital I want to stay here but the thing with a nursing career is you really can take it anywhere you want and there’s so many directions so, it’s almost like I have so many options I don’t know,” Topian said.

Health systems are throwing whatever incentives they can at nursing students to get them to come or stay.

“If you stay on and you want to go back for your master’s program, the University of Rochester has great benefits for education so they help to pay for nurses to get their master’s degree and they cater to working nurses so they can work as a bedside nurse full-time and get into the masters programs,” Zugnon explained.