Pandemic inspires students to pursue degrees in health care in West Texas

Updated: Jan. 7, 2021 at 10:17 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - While many health care professionals are feeling the strain from the pandemic, professors at area universities say COVID-19 is actually inspiring many to go into the health care field, causing an increase in students applying for medical degrees.

“The applications for our 2021 cycle, increased over double,” said Lauren Sullivan, managing director at TTUHSC School of Nursing, office of admissions and student affairs.

“This semester we actually have a record number of applicants for our nursing program,” said Holly Jeffreys, department head of nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, West Texas A&M University.

“An increase of about 18 percent. So, that’s a lot more students,” said Richard Jordan, regional dean, School of Medicine, TTUHSC.

Universities in West Texas are seeing an increase of students applying for health care degrees and many are attributing it to the pandemic.

“I think people and young people still want to serve and they see the importance of doctors and nurses and other health care providers,” said Jordan.

Sullivan says when the pandemic first began and pictures of overworked and tired nurses began surfacing, she knew it could either be a good or bad thing for her nursing school.

“People are either going to see this and turn away from health care and all of our applications are going to disappear. Or we’re going to have a huge increase because they are going to realize, this is what I want to do,” said Sullivan.

Many say an increase of people interested in health care is just what West Texas needs.

“We have a nursing shortage. There’s data that proves it. It’s something that if you are keeping up with health care hot topics, it’s something that is talked about a lot especially in the rural areas,” said Sullivan.

At WT, the nursing program has expanded to take on those additional students who applied.

“If we graduate more nurses in the Texas panhandle, we hope they stay here and we hope we have more nurses to fill the needs,” said Jeffreys.

Something some suggest will be needed in the future.

“We’re always going to need more doctors, more nurses and I am very much afraid this is not the last pandemic,” said Jordan.

While more nurses are needed in West Texas, Sullivan says often times it is difficult to find the hospital space where nursing students can learn.

With the significant increase, some will still be turned away.

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