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BSN graduates can enter nursing field before licensure exam due to COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNG's BSN graduates will be able to apply to enter the field with temporary permits before taking their licensure exam.

Students in the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program who completed their coursework in December 2019 or finish it in May 2020 can apply to join the nursing profession before taking the Nation Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX).

In a process that is beginning to take shape, the graduates will be able to seek temporary permits since their ability to take the NCLEX in a timely fashion is limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic that also has increased the need for their services.  

Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Board of Nursing (GBN) made the move to help get more nurses onto the frontlines of patient care for the COVID-19 response. With the temporary permit, graduates will work as nurses until they have a chance to take the NCLEX.

"It's vital. You're talking about our institution alone being able to send 150 to 200 nurses into places where there are dire needs," said Dr. Carolynn DeSandre, interim dean of UNG's College of Health Sciences & Professions. "They have the skills we need for them to be on the frontlines and helping at this time. It's great to see the governor and Board of Nursing realizing this need."

Dr. Sharon Chalmers, head of UNG's Nursing Department, said the infusion of nurses across the state could be a game-changer.

"This can relieve some of the pressures on our nurses right now," Chalmers said. "Nurses are working extra hours. They're picking up extra shifts."

Sarah Vancea, who is scheduled to graduate with a BSN from UNG in May and has accepted an emergency room position with Grady Memorial Hospital, knows not everyone will feel the same about starting right away before the NCLEX. But the Dearborn Heights, Michigan, native is glad she won't have to take a break between finishing her degree and entering the nursing field.

"I want to be an emergency room nurse. Either way, I like jumping into things," Vancea said. "That fits my personality perfectly."

Both DeSandre and Chalmers noted that as recently as the 1980s graduates of nursing programs received such temporary permits because testing was available only twice a year. Once students took the test, they continued as nurses if they passed or pulled out of the field if they failed. Chalmers said GBN realized that since that process worked then, it could be replicated now to meet critical needs.

"I'm excited for the graduating students and our local health care environment," DeSandre said. "We were at a nursing shortage even before COVID-19. I'm glad they'll be able to get out there and help during this time of great need."

Chalmers said UNG remains in touch with its December graduates who have been unable to take the NCLEX. She said UNG's nursing faculty are encouraging them to keep studying so they retain what they learned and can be successful once they take the test.

UNG has also already started some of its summer nursing coursework so instruction can be stacked at the beginning to allow for more clinical time later. Currently, nursing students have been pulled out of their required clinical placements due to COVID-19.

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