When the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the globe and claimed tens of thousands of lives in New Jersey, the sacrifice of thousands of first responders and medical professionals inspired more students to enroll in nursing school than ever before.
A time of great demand has collided with evidence of record interest in the nursing profession. Perhaps no group was more widely recognized for its service than America’s nurses – and being on the frontlines to combat the virus is seen by many as an opportunity to make a difference. A testament to the rise in interest has been evident at the Trinitas School of Nursing.
“Between January and May this year, the Trinitas School of Nursing graduated a record 188 students,” says Dean Roseminda Santee. “Even more incredible is that during the worst days of the pandemic, we also saw record numbers of applicants seeking admission to our school. From the Spring of 2019 to the Fall of 2020, the number of qualified applications we received increased by more than 30%.”
The increase, equating to more than 200 qualified applicants, reflects a drive among the community to run toward the danger of the coronavirus outbreak. Individuals are hearing the calling to become medical providers now more than ever, in spite of the risk they might each personally face.
“Our students want to serve their communities, take on the challenge of the COVID-19 battle, and work with patients that are very, very sick,” Santee says. “They are amazing individuals.”
Among that group of amazing individuals are people like Patience Opaola of Linden, who graduated from the School of Nursing in January. “COVID-19 actually affirmed, for me, that I made the right decision in starting a nursing career,” she says. “I wanted to quit so many times when I first started on the Medical-Surgical floor, but I had a lot of support [from fellow nurses] and I’m glad I saw it through.”
Most applicants and enrollees are new to the healthcare field, Santee says, while some are Certified Nurse Aides or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) completing their education to become Registered Nurses (RNs). The cohorts reflect a diverse mix of races and ethnic backgrounds, and include higher numbers of male candidates as well.
When the coronavirus outbreak forced the physical closure of schools at all levels, the School of Nursing had to quickly pivot toward online instruction. New protocol and limitations on the numbers of seats permitted in each class will continue for the foreseeable future, but Dr. Santee says the school is up to the task.
“I wish I could take every single one of our applicants,” she says. “It’s a balancing act, meeting the New Jersey Board of Nursing demand for more licensed nurses while adhering to state-mandated health protocols in our classrooms and in clinical facilities. We also have to bear in mind the guidelines required by the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.”
This year, the school earned its fourth designation as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing – one of only 17 institutions across the country to receive the four-year recognition. For more than a decade, it has enjoyed a reputation for rigorous curricula, an outstanding teaching staff, and an admission policy that ensures only the best students, representative of the community served by the school, are admitted as future healthcare professionals.