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The state of nursing during COVID-19

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Nurses at a hospital

MADISON (WKOW) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the work health care professionals do, experts say the industry is facing another battle: staffing.

Ann Zenk, the Wisconsin Hospital Association's Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice, said the pandemic has made health care less efficient.

"We know that in a COVID world, it takes more staff members, more equipment and more supplies to accomplish many times the same exact work that we would in a pre-COVID world," she said.

Despite the increased demand for staff, Zenk said Wisconsin is in a better position than other states. That's because Wisconsin nursing programs have been graduating more nurses recently.

"We've been very fortunate that our nursing programs in Wisconsin are stepping up," she said.

Zenk said 3,000 nurses graduated in Wisconsin in 2017. Two years later, 3,500 nurses graduated.

Sixteen-year-old Adrian Palacios hopes to be one of those graduates in a few years.

"What I can do to help out, even if it is just a small scale, I do want to make sure that people feel that they are loved and respected," he said.

Palacios is a student at Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin. Through the virtual school, he'll be able to take dual credit classes starting his senior year.

He said he's planning on working toward his Associate Degree in nursing at Madison Area Technical College.

That two-year degree will prepare him to take the NCLEX, a licensing exam. Once he passes the test, he'll be an RN.

"I've always seen in the world, there's a lot of people who don't have the kind of care they need," Palacios said. "I do have a hope for the future that it's going to get better, but for the time being, I want to help out where I can."

Zenk said if Wisconsin were to see a larger nursing shortage, it wouldn't take as long to correct as shortages in other professions would. She said two-year programs like the one Palacios is pursuing help get qualified people working quickly.

However, Zenk said it is now more common for practicing nurses to have four-year degrees.

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Caroline Dade

Weekend Evening Anchor/Reporter, 27 News

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