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'We're going to hit the ground running' | Nursing students graduating in May will help on front lines of coronavirus pandemic

Forsyth Tech Community College says dozens of students will graduate from one of the nursing programs in May and go to work to help in the crisis.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Medical professionals across the country are working tirelessly in the fight against the coronavirus. 

In May, graduates in the Triad will join that front line team to help during this crisis to help in any way they can.

Williams Wallace is one of those expected graduates. He's a nursing student at Forsyth Tech Community College.

Right now he's completing work from home, but in May he's expected to graduate and get right to work.

"It's scary, there’s no question about it," said Wallace, "This is a really unprecedented time when it comes to this virus. There’s a lot of unknown."

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He said he plans to work in an emergency room upon graduating. Although he's eager to get into the field as soon as possible, he said it's a scary time as well.

"There’s always a concern of lack of supplies, lack of PPE and the big thing is dealing with patients and not knowing if they're infected or not, so you have to treat everyone as if they are," said Wallace.

Forsyth Tech Community College said they have 78 students who are in their final semester of the Associate Degree Nursing program at Forsyth Tech, with an expected graduation date in May.

"These graduates mostly all have jobs and can immediately go to work to help with this crisis," said Linda Latham, Dean of Health Technologies Division at Forsyth Tech. 

Latham said the graduates will also take their licensure exam to become registered nurses as soon as possible. 

"They will be competent and prepared to enter the nursing workforce. We have moved to remote instruction and are keeping our students on track toward completion of their degree," she said. 

UNCG's school of nursing expects to have 105 pre-licensure students graduate. 

The university said the North Carolina Board of Nursing is working to re-establish the "graduate nurse" status, which allows graduates of pre-licensure nursing programs in North Carolina to apply for a temporary permit to practice as a registered nurse, with supervision, while waiting to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. 

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“Nurses, physicians and first responders are the heroes in this COVID-19 crisis. We need to support our hospitals with additional staffing as much as possible to help with nursing shortages and some much needed relief for the current nurses," said President of Forsyth Technical Community College, Janet N. Spriggs, "Forsyth Tech is proud of the role we play in educating these critical individuals. Our graduating nurses have looked forward to this time in their career and they are eager to serve our community in a role they see as a calling.”

Forsyth Tech Community College also has graduates in Practical Nursing who are expected to graduate in July.

The Health Division will also graduate students from respiratory therapy, pharmacy technology, radiography, sonography, and other healthcare programs.

Wallace said he's looking forward to graduation and helping as many people as he can. 

"I want to be that person I want to help them. I want to be on the front lines to do everything that I can to help the situation," he said. 

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