Minnesota nursing students ready to join ranks of those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic

Nursing students at Concordia St. Paul are training and preparing to join the COVID-19 fight. (FOX 9)

They’re our frontline workers, and we are depending on them more than ever. And as nurses put in overtime to get us through this pandemic, there are students working hard to join their ranks.

As a nursing student, you must be prepared for anything – especially in a pandemic.

"Definitely this experience is going to get me ready for when I graduate," said nursing student Maria Brown.

Nursing programs around the metro have had to adapt, moving online at times and adjusting how the hands-on training looks. Sometimes that means using high-tech mannequins in training or switching to in-person clinicals when COVID-19 precautions have eased up.

"I think students are seeing the impact nurses are really having," said Concordia University, St. Paul Director of Pre-Licensing Nursing Kendra Saal.

Interest in the career continues to grow. At Concordia University, they’re meeting monthly with higher numbers of incoming freshmen declaring nursing as their major.

"They’re all super excited to get in the program so they can get out there and start working," said Saal.

"It takes a village and we need to make sure we are preparing this next generation for systems like this," said St. Catherine University Dean of Nursing Laura Fero.

The preparation in 2020 includes real-life lessons they wouldn’t have experienced any other year.

"We talk extensively in our programs about public health disaster management, pandemics, so the students are getting that information," said Fero. "The difference is that they’re living with that information now."

And those fully invested in a nursing career tell us, if anything, it’s deepened their passion to help.

"It takes a special person or special people to put aside their needs to care for others," said nurse practitioner student Chinwe Obi-Walker.

Some of those we spoke with Friday say burnout could mean some nurses have to be sidelined after things calm down post-pandemic. But the real concern will be when baby boomers retire, leaving a gap in the nursing industry that a lot of these people training right now will be there to fill.