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OU to graduate medical students early

Citing need for more medical workers, Ohio University will graduate nurses, doctors this weekend

Due to the demand for medical professionals because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio University will be graduating nursing and medical students earlier than expected.

Instead of the traditional graduation in May, those students will be getting their degrees on Saturday, so they can enter the workforce in the time of great need.

At Ohio University Southern, nine Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students will graduate early. There are 40 Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) students who will graduate on time in May.

“Ohio Southern is proud to offer well prepared nurses into the workforce. Our students are equipped with knowledge and skills to help improve the health of our communities,” said Mashawna Hamilton, associate director of Nursing for Southern. “These skilled nursing graduates possess the assets needed to serve in the current crisis and in better days ahead,” she said.

There will be no ceremony, just a finalizing of degrees so they can help in the fight against the coronavirus.

OU 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,” he 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.”

OU said that most of the new physicians will be joining hospitals and health care systems in Ohio, with 72 percent of the 227 members of the class of 2020 who sought residencies staying in the state to practice.

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 said the majority of the School of Nursing’s early graduates will continue working and contributing within the state of Ohio.

“Qualified nurses are essential to our state’s ability to test for COVID-19 and provide patient care,” said CHSP 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 degrees are just one of the school’s efforts to help medical professionals and agencies across Ohio.

Over 100 students, faculty and professional associates from Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions have volunteered in an effort to help health departments across the state.

The volunteers are helping with contact tracing, which is interviewing individuals who are ill and identifying those with whom they have recently had contact, and manning social, mobile and video hotlines for people who have questions or concerns about the virus and their exposure.

And on Monday, 250 volunteers in their third year at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine are participating in the new COVID-19 public health rotation.

The school said the rotation is a four-week course designed by the medical school in partnership with the Ohio Department of Health and implemented with help from other state agencies.

Through the rotation, students will contribute significantly to the state’s response to the pandemic – especially in small, understaffed local health agencies.

Nellis said the pandemic has created an “all hands on deck” situation in which the medical college and other units have talents that can help the state minimize COVID-19’s impact. “Ohio University has a long history of service to our state and its people,” he said. “We are discussing ways our partnership can be expanded quickly to include students in a variety of health-related and communications fields.”