NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As the coronavirus, a global health emergency, enters the third year, the nursing profession across the nation remains in critical condition. Staffing is short, the hours are long and some nurses and doctors are under threat over unproven treatments for COVID-19.

In a check-up of the nursing class of 2022 at Norfolk State University, Spartans say they are ready for the challenge.

In laboratories that resemble a hospital ward, complete with mannequins with ailments, Certified Nursing Educator Melody Armstrong watched over senior nursing student Edjanea Green as she started an IV on her plastic patient.

(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

“To start the IV — so I’m going to retie my tourniquet and I’m going to make sure I can access it in case of an emergency,” said Green in her NSU green uniform.

In a matter of weeks, nursing students at Norfolk State University will join the ranks of nurses who are applying pressure to a health care system that is hemorrhaging with pandemic-related problems.

“It is not anything that has been seen by anyone in our professional career,” said Aretha Thurman, DNP, RN, who is the director of the nursing programs at NSU.

(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

Walking out over mandates, stressed out due to shortages, and checking out due to depression the shortage is now considered a national health issue.

“Does change happen overnight?” she asked.

“No…” responded the class, as Armstrong discussed the health benefits of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or the so-called DASH diet. The NSU program focuses on acute care and prevention.

“So going from an acute care situation to even more of a population health piece, so how do you impact change before it gets to the [disease] level that it’s at right now,” said Thurman in addressing the future of nursing.

Despite industry ailments, last fall the number of people who applied for the program doubled.

“This year we got two hundred[applicants] the number of students who actually qualified was even higher. Our application for entry has not gone down at all it has actually increased,” said Thurman, commenting on application trends in the fall of 2021.

NSU has partnered with the National League for Nursing and the Johnson & Johnson Foundation to prepare students for the nation’s hospitals and clinics.

“In addition to that, we really fall back on what are the standards of practice so we really maintain our professional attitudes working from evidence and really being prepared to go out there and seeking the support of the agencies they are working with and legislatures because we can’t do this alone. It is possible but it is an uphill battle,” said Thurman.

Members of the class of 2022 say the NSU program has prepared them for nursing profession ailments that have created a health crisis.

(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

Regina Mobley: “How do you look a the headlines and know that very soon you will be on the front lines dealing with these issues?”

Edjanea Green: “Well it’s very unfortunate but I just want everyone to know we are here to take care of people and we are here to be empathetic and sympathetic at the same time.”

Courtney Powell: “We’ve been equipped with the materials we need and actually I’m feeling pretty confident.”

Ryan Williams: “Nursing school kind of trains you for the situations where you have to be prepared for unpredictable events.”

According to the American Nurses Association, a half-million registered nurses will retire this year, creating more than a million vacancies.

The head of nursing programs at NSU hopes a nursing school is in NSU’S future as the nation prepares for the next pandemic.

(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

“The wonderful thing for us is that we have these new minds that are coming in. It’s like you have fresh ideas on how to solve problems, new thinking and starting with an evidence-based approach, and realizing the health profession is changing; it is shifting even as we speak,” Thurman said.