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UL Lafayette ahead of curve amidst nursing shortage

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Posted at 1:08 AM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 10:41:32-04

A global nursing shortage — now showing symptoms in Acadiana and the state of Louisiana as a whole.

Experts told KATC it's an issue that starts in the classroom.

"Hospitals generally employ around 100,000 people around the state so, you know, 13,000 is a pretty substantial percentage of job openings when you look at total employment, at least in hospitals," said CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association, Paul Salles.

Those at UL told KATC, however, that as the primary provider of nurses to Acadiana's local hospitals — they're working to stay ahead of this curve — one that has existed long before the pandemic.

Jaden Romero is a senior-level nursing student at UL Lafayette. Set to graduate in May with a job already lined up, he tells me this statewide shortage in the thousands may seem like it could only be a bad thing, but in his eyes, there's a silver lining.

"This is cliche but I always say you don't choose nursing, nursing chooses you," Romero said. "As a new grad, it's actually something that's also really exciting because there's a lot of older nurses who are retiring recently and when you're getting into the hospitals there's such a good opportunity to move up like there's a lot of room to move up into like charge nurse roles and management roles like really quickly."

Dean of UL Lafayette's College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, told KATC the nursing shortage can have an effect on the faculty side as well.

"People tend to forget that nursing faculty are nurses and are credentialed as nurses and must be credentialed as nurses in order to teach," she said. "Fortunately here at UL Lafayette, we are able to fill all of our nursing teaching positions."

Filling the classrooms, too — enrolling more than 350 new freshmen to the program in Fall 2020 — increasing by a third last fall in 2021.

"To me, that shows that despite what people heard about what was happening during the pandemic, that it didn't scare new people into coming into nursing and pursuing nursing as a profession," Dr. Oberleitner said. "So I think that's a great relief to all of us that it has not turned away people."

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