The pandemic changed their graduation ceremony into a drive-through celebration, and now 167 new nurses are charging toward the front lines in the war against COVID-19.
No retreat, no surrender for the graduates of the Broward College nursing program.
"I’m ready to get in there and help wherever I can,” said Milly Alvarez, who was leaning out of her car window to talk to us.
I asked if she felt a sense of duty.
“Yes, to my community, to my family," Alvarez said. "This is what I went to school for so I’m ready to get in there."
“It feels like a million bucks,” said graduate Ross Silecky, who rode through the procession Wednesday on his motorcycle. “We’re ready to go out there and help, help out, wherever it takes us, Florida or another state, we’re ready.”
Since the start of the pandemic, applications to medical schools have skyrocketed, and the dean of the Broward College nursing program says interest in nursing has also risen dramatically.
“They’re desperate to get in there and really work, and really help out, and ready to be part of the solution, so it’s been very exciting for us,” said Sara Turpel, dean of the nursing program, who greeted each graduate in the procession.
The graduates are eager to jump into the fray, but the need for new nurses is much greater in Florida and the rest of the country than this one graduating class can possibly supply. The pandemic has also slowed down the ability of some nursing programs to continue their training courses.
“We’re very fortunate and been able to keep going and graduated all these great nurses, but the need is going to get even worse in the next few years, especially the nurses who are now treating patients with COVID -- they’re tired,” Turpel said.
Reinforcements are on the way.
“It is our job to actually take care of people, maintain their safety, especially in this time with coronavirus, we are ready to just jump into the field,” said graduate Veronica Granadillo, who stood through the sunroof of a car festooned with balloons.
“We’re excited to go in and start and ready to help out wherever it’s needed,” said graduate Eric Wiley through his car window.
The need is everywhere. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the nation needs 1.1 million new nurses by 2022 to avoid a severe shortage.
The graduates we met today can’t solve the issue by themselves, obviously, but they are leading by example.
They are role models in the fight against the pandemic.