Even before COVID-19 arrived in the U.S. in early 2020, the country was facing an alarming nursing shortage. Two years later, the workforce is further diminished due to nurses struggling to overcome the ongoing demands on their physical and mental health during the pandemic.
There is hope, however. From January 2020 to January 2022, UConn School of Nursing has seen a nearly 25% increase in applications to their four-year undergraduate program.
“It is quite incredible and inspiring to see so many young people interested in joining the nursing profession,” Dean Deborah Chyun says. “It is especially encouraging that we have seen our applicant pool grow these past two years, despite the pandemic that has taken over our lives.”
In January 2020, the School received just under 2,000 applications for its undergraduate program on the Storrs campus. That total was typical for the program at that time. Once the pandemic arrived in full force a few months later, School leaders worried it would impact the amount of interest in the program going forward.
To their surprise, they received 2,338 applications in January 2021 from students who wished to be a part of the Class of 2025. Causality is always hard to determine – whether the increase was due to an overall higher interest in nursing or more students wishing to study closer to home during the pandemic – but more students studying nursing in Connecticut can only be a good thing, as they complete their clinical training at area health care facilities and, therefore, could be more likely to work in-state after graduation.
For the January 2022 application deadline, the School saw another increase in undergraduate applications, for a total of 2,497 and a nearly 25% increase since two years prior. UConn, as a whole, received more than 40,000 applications for its Class of 2026 — a new record for the University.
This small spark of hope comes as nursing leaders across the state are raising the alarm about the many nurses who will retire in the next decade, and the lack of younger nurses to fill their positions. The Connecticut Center for Nursing Workforce and the Connecticut League for Nursing announced earlier this month that, of the 44,086 nurses practicing in the state, 7,917 are age 60 or older, while only 4,390 are under age 30. The two nursing organizations worked in partnership with the Connecticut Data Collaborative to analyze the state’s nursing workforce data.
“We know there is still a long way to go to fix the nursing shortage in our state and around the country,” Chyun says. “But if step one of fixing the problem is having young people interested in nursing, I like to think our application numbers give us reason to hope. We, of course, will keep working with University and state leaders to increase our enrollment and do everything we can to find a solution for Connecticut.”