‘Win-win situation': Florence health leaders praise decision to allow nursing grads to help in hospitals

Graduate nurses allowed to work at S.C. hospitals

FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - Local hospital and university leaders are happy with the decision by state leaders to temporarily allow graduate nurses to help out in hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic without their nursing licenses.

The South Carolina of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s (LLR) State Board of Nursing issued a joint order on Friday allowing graduate nurses temporary authorization to practice so they can help healthcare facilities in need of more staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If our volume of cases continues to grow in the hospital then we are going to have to look at them as an alternative to how we deliver nursing care,” said McLeod Chief Nursing Officer Tony Derrick.

Many graduate nurses have been unable to take the NCLEX licensing test due to delays caused by COVID-19. Nursing graduates can’t be employed without that license.

But now to qualify to help out hospitals, graduate nurses must have already registered to take the NCLEX for the first time, have graduated from an accredited program, and work under the supervision of a registered nurse.

As the pandemic continues, Derrick said allowing graduate nurses to get hands-on experience could be very helpful.

“There is certainly a place where someone like this could fit in to assist as a resource, and while they’re doing that, they’re learning, so I think it’s a positive win for both the student nurse for resource allocation as this pandemic continues and I don’t think it hurts to have this as a good resource,” said Derrick.

Derrick said every nurse who comes into the hospital must go through an orientation process that determines their competency. He believes this could speed the process up since the graduate nurses will get important hands-on training.

Chair of Francis Marion University’s nursing department, Dr. Rhonda Brogdon, said roughly 40% of their students are waiting to take the NCLEX.

Brogdon believes getting graduate nurses into the hospitals will enhance their skill level and give them a chance to further develop as nurses.

“Here at FMU we already give our students that foundation to be able to get out there and work, but having the opportunity to actually go out and work in the healthcare field until they pass the state board of license, I feel only enhances their competency,” said Brogdon.

In a statement, MUSC Health Florence Chief Nursing Officer Costa Cockfield said she supports allowing graduate nurses to work in their hospital as a means to boost staffing.

“This is a win-win situation, the nursing students have a pathway to work while waiting to take the licensure exam. Likewise, the hospital benefits by getting the new graduate oriented and into clinical practice much faster,” said Cockfield.

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