ATHENS (WCMH) — As COVID-19 puts growing burdens on health care systems nationwide, Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health Sciences and Professions are strengthening the medical workforce by graduating medical and nursing students sooner than planned.
Nursing students and medical students will receive their degrees on April 18, instead of the previously-scheduled dates of May 9 (Heritage College) and May 2 (nursing students). This will create an opportunity for class of 2020 graduates to enter the workforce early in a time of need.
Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said the University is committed to doing all it can to battle the pandemic.
“Thanks to prompt and decisive action by our governor and department of health, Ohio is recognized nationally and internationally as a model for its response to this public health emergency,” Nellis said. “Ohio University is strengthening our state’s response, and I’m truly grateful to the Heritage College and the School of Nursing and the class of 2020 for their willingness to adapt quickly and to serve during these very challenging circumstances.”
Many of the new physicians will be joining hospitals and health care systems in Ohio. 72 percent of the 227 members of the class of 2020 who sought residencies are staying in the state to practice.
“Training physicians who provide excellent care in our Ohio communities is fundamental to our mission,” said Ken Johnson, D.O., Heritage College executive dean and Ohio University chief medical affairs officer. “When the state of Ohio and our health system partners asked how to get new doctors into the workforce more quickly, the solution was clear. Our medical students are ready now.”
The State of Ohio recently updated regulations, allowing nursing students nearing graduation to earn a temporary license and begin serving in a professional capacity more quickly.
“Ohio University’s nursing graduates are well positioned to help alleviate the current healthcare workload,” said Dr. Deborah Henderson, director of Ohio’s School of Nursing. “Most importantly, our students are prepared and ready to contribute thanks to the quality education provided by our knowledgeable faculty.”
Henderson noted that the majority of the School of Nursing’s early graduates will continue working and contributing within Ohio.
“Qualified nurses are essential to our state’s ability to test for COVID-19 and provide patient care,” said College of Health Sciences and Professions Dean Randy Leite. “This unprecedented circumstance has provided Ohio University with the opportunity to enact a creative and collaborative solution that provides needed healthcare support while ensuring that the standards and rigor of our nationally recognized nursing program remain intact.”
The early degree conferrals are the latest efforts both colleges have made to bolster the ranks of professionals in the state. More than 100 CHSP students and faculty are volunteering with the Ohio Department of Health and more than half of Ohio Department of Health volunteers are from Ohio University, including more than two-thirds of the state’s faculty volunteers.
In addition, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine launched a new clinical rotation for all of its approximately 250 third-year medical students to work in local health agencies to help contain the outbreak.
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