(WGHP) — As hospital systems continue to experience strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, Triad nursing programs are helping boost the pipeline of potential employees. 

Projections show North Carolina could be short approximately 12,500 nurses and 5,000 licensed practical nurses. 

A partnership between the University of North Carolina and the NC Nursing Board highlighted Winston-Salem as a region potentially facing one of the largest RN shortages in the state. 

At the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Nursing School and Davidson-Davie Community College, the pandemic has made it harder for students to complete the clinical hours needed to graduate. 

Students are working in simulation labs to help supplement their experience.  

“We have a model hospital wing. We have an ICU. Two beds. We have a mother/baby unit, and we have a home environment,” said Audrey Snyder, associate dean for experiential learning at UNCG’s nursing school. 

At Davidson-Davie Community College, there’s a realistic pharmacy and state-of-the-art microscopes you’d find in a medical lab.   

Dean of Health Sciences Holly Myers is creating other chances for students to get hands-on experience.   

“For long-term, we are looking at enhancing our apprenticeship opportunities. We’re looking at creating apprenticeships for all our health science programs. We’re also going to look at applying for grants for scholarships for students in health science programs,” Myers said.

UNCG has no shortage of applicants for its program. Both schools need more faculty to lead classes and clinicals. 

“One thing we’re trying to do is have flexible clinical hours so that individuals who do work in an industry can serve as clinical instructors or adjunct instructors for us at times that would be convenient for them to do such,” Myers explained. 

Snyder is also working to build resiliency in prospective nurses to avoid burnout and keep them at the bedside longer.  

“It’s one thing to get a student through a program to take their board exams, but we also want to see them succeed as they enter into the workforce for nursing, and the skills they can learn within their nursing program can be carried on,” she said.