MOLINE, Ill. — A new round of students enrolled in Black Hawk College's associate degree nursing program are getting ready to graduate in just two months.
The two year program enrolls 40 students each semester. Nicole Henderson is one of the nursing students that will graduate come December. For her, there was never a doubt in her mind this was the path for her.
"I didn't have a lot of hesitancy going into nursing," says Henderson, "I feel really good going into it."
She already has a job lined up with Genesis Health birth center as a labor and delivery nurse. It's a benefit to an open job market in health care right now. Her classmate Alora Davila is up for the challenge as well.
"I'm just excited to be able to help out all of my fellow health care workers," says Davila, "Since there's such a demand for people just in the hospital in general."
Both women started the nursing program at Black Hawk right as the pandemic was getting serious. They share it was stressful to see the strain put on health care workers, but nothing to scare them away.
"It was really stressful because I had been holding off on going into the nursing career just because of my own self doubts and worries," says Davila, "then adding COVID to the entire experience, it was a lot. But honestly, I've appreciated it a lot. It's helped me think more on my feet."
Despite the headfirst attitude of these women, the incoming class might not be as eager to jump right in. Trudy Starr is the nursing department chair at Black Hawk College. She sees the way the pandemic has left a mark on enrollment.
"I really wasn't that surprised to see it down because of the pandemic," says Starr.
The incoming class that will start in January is only half full as of right now. It's because of the lower number of students applying that the school has decided to extend the application deadline. Normally it closes at the end of September, but is now open until November 1st.
"We would like to have a full class," says Starr.
She doesn't think people are turned off by the stress of the job, but rather blames the economic affects of a year and a half pandemic that continues to drag on.
"I think it might be a fact of the pandemic interrupting people's study plans," says Starr, "You know, people weren't working. So then you don't have the finances to continue the education."
It's something she hopes has a short term effect on the industry. Looking at the class of December 2021, she knows the students have a lot to offer, and wants to see more experience the program.
"Our class that's going to be graduating in December is one of the most compassionate classes that I've dealt with in a while. They are caring for each other, the patients, the faculty," says Starr, "They're going to do good things."
Starr, hopeful to get more helping hands into health care.