Maryland races to recruit nursing students in coronavirus fight


Courtesy of Morgan State University

In 2018, graduates of Morgan’s Nursing Program scored a 100 percent pass rate on the National Nursing Exam.

Chloe Johnson, Campus News Editor

Junior nursing major Asia Henderson, like many students in her program, is prepared to fight on the frontlines of the pandemic. Three weeks ago, she applied for a volunteer position to assist in COVID-19 relief. When Henderson first learned of the virus, despite being immunocompromised, she submitted an application. 

“There are always risks when working in a hospital,” Henderson said. “I knew that when I chose this career path.”

To help prepare for a surge in coronavirus patients, Gov. Larry Hogan called on the Maryland Health Department to quickly recruit nursing and graduate students from state universities, according to a news release.

To comply, The Maryland Health Department, in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Medicine created an Emergency Float Pool to hire staff to work in the Field Hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center. Recruited staff are either assigned to this location or one of 13 other University of Maryland affiliated hospitals.

“They’re trying to get as many health care professionals ready as they can,” said Maija Anderson, director of Morgan State University’s nursing program.

Students are employed by their level of experience, and after completing a four hour orientation, work rotating shifts. 

According to Anderson, Juniors without CNA licensure can make $20 an hour and would be considered level one staff, while graduating seniors would rank at the highest level. She added that, in Maryland, registered nurses practicing in COVID-19 units are paid $60 per hour. 

This rate, however, can fluctuate depending on the state. 

In certain hotspots, like New York, where hospitals are experiencing overwhelming numbers of coronavirus patients, registered nurses can make close to  $10,000 a week under short term contracts, according to Anderson.

Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order that would allow nursing students to practice without a license in Maryland, a decision that the University of Maryland Medical System has supported. Under this directive, all medical licenses have been delayed expiration and extended until 30 days after the State of Emergency has been lifted. In addition, nurses with inactive licensees are allowed to perform nursing duties during the emergency.

“As Maryland, the United States, and the world face the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that nurses and other health care providers use their knowledge and skills to provide competent and compassionate care to all patients, especially the most vulnerable,” Dr. Jane Kirschling, dean of University of Maryland’s School Nursing told The Spokesman. 

Anderson commended her students who have shown initiative.  

“They are really focused on graduating,” she said. “They want to be out and be a part of this.” 

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to climb, Maryland health-care professionals have scrambled to fill positions and meet the demand for nursing care. 

“We are looking at a global shortage between 5.5 and 5.7 million nurses,” Anderson said. “What’s going to happen is they’re going to call on us to look at different ways to increase the capacity to meet the demands.”

Despite these challenges, Anderson has noticed an increase in underclassmen who’ve changed their majors to nursing. But she cautions them to make sure they understand what they’re getting into.  

“We want them to understand what goes into that,” she added. “We have to say to them ‘this is what your world is going to look like in health care.’”