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Nurses from University of Maryland to graduate early and head to the pandemic front lines

Seeking to ease a nursing shortage exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Maryland School of Nursing will allow nursing students to exit a bit early and begin working in the field.

It’s the fourth time the school has approved such a move, which affects students scheduled to graduate Dec. 23.

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The students have been encouraged to pursue positions in the state’s health care system, which has been strained by the number of COVID-19 cases.

About 570 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, a number that state data shows is just beginning to reflect an upswing in infections that began the first week of November. More than 51,770 people have been hospitalized since the pandemic began about 20 months ago.

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Nurses particularly have been in short supply, and many in Maryland and across the country have retired or resigned. Some nurses, in high demand, have been offered large pay increases to join temp services and go to national COVID hot spots.

Hospital officials across the state have required workers to be vaccinated in an effort to protect patients, but also to keep remaining workers healthy.

The early-exit program was a response to a request from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland officials said, and based on readiness assessments by the school. All 161 bachelor’s degree students and 11 master’s degree students will exit early in a period that began Friday and runs until the first week of December.

“Nurses throughout Maryland have served courageously on the front lines for over 20 months,” said Jane Kirschling, dean of the Maryland School of Nursing, in a statement. “I am proud of our entry-into-practice students for their willingness to support these efforts, and I applaud all of our students for their resiliency and for persevering in their studies during a difficult time marked by uncertainty and ongoing challenges.”

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing will also be putting nurses into the field shortly, but not early.

“We take pride in educating our students to lead with strength and resilience by obtaining the full curriculum,” said Sarah L. Szanton, dean of the nursing school, in a statement.

“Part of that is allowing them to gain all the knowledge necessary to graduate,” she said. “Being a new nurse is a big endeavor and we want them to be the most prepared possible.”

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