COVID-19 pandemic causing increase in nursing & medical school applicants

COVID-19 test schools
Posted at 12:36 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 12:36:34-04

(WXYZ) — We’ve spent more than a year battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and doctors and nurses are among the heroes on the front line every day.

They’ve shared with all of us their sorrow and grief, their victories, joy, and their defeats.

It can be a grueling job. The U.S. will need nearly 140,000 doctors by 2033 and around 500,000 nurses by 2030.

Thankfully, the determination we’ve seen during the pandemic is inspiring an explosion of interest and applications for nursing schools and medical schools across the country and right here in metro Detroit.

2019 Madonna University biology grad Normandy Gray has spent the last two years working with students in Detroit. But Normandy will be a student in the fall. She's enrolling in an accelerated bachelor's program in nursing at U of D Mercy. A decision driven in part by the power of seeing healthcare workers in action.

"I'm seeing, like, people who are essentially their heroes, you know, going and they're working ridiculous hours for a cause that's way bigger than themselves," Gray said.

More and more people like Gray are applying and enrolling in healthcare programs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, enrollment in Bachelor of Nursing programs is up nearly 6 percent in 2020. A career put in the spotlight by COVID-19.

"To do to really do something that's so good. And that's something that really just kind of made me feel like, wow, you know, this is an amazing career," Gray added.

Medical school applications are up 18% nationwide. They're up 17% at Oakland University's William Beaumont School of Medicine.

So people are calling it the Fauci effect," Dr. Robert Noiva, the associate dean of the medical school.

Noiva says a call of duty for Americans during the pandemic is similar to the pull Americans felt 20 years ago in the wake of 9-11.

"There was a feeling of, I need to do something in response to this. And there was a big upswing in people enlisting," he said.

That sense of commitment and desire to help others is what schools are looking for in future doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

"I think most people are good at heart and they want to make a difference," Wayne State School of Medicine Dean Dr. Mark Schweitzer said.

He said you can make that difference with these professions but you also get a reward.

"To have a profession where you go home every night and you said that I helped patients X, Y and Z today is a righteous thing to do," he added.

Wayne State’s medical school received 1,000 additional applications - up 10%. But the school can only increase the size of the class by 3%.

The size of medical schools is regulated by their accrediting body, and there are only so many clinical spots for med school students and nursing students. That's where they get their hands-on experience with patients. But it's not just about good grades. it's about the person.

"They're really looking at individuals, what kind of people they are, what are their values? Do they have a commitment to community service?" Dr. Robert Novia, from the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, said.

Eden Donetti, who is graduating from Oakland Community College’s RN program, says COVID does cause some anxiety, but she refuses to back down.

"I went into nursing to help people. So now, more than ever, people need our help."

There is a lack of clinical sites causing a real problem.

In 2020, almost 81,000 qualified nursing applicants were turned away because of a shortage of clinical sites, faculty, and other resource constraints.

That means virtually every nursing school, and every medical school is turning away qualified applicants.

Schweitzer says it would be easy to fill up an incoming med school with people with perfect GPAs and from the right zip codes.

He says Wayne State’s mission is to train people who might not be able to get that training elsewhere.

As a country, we need to figure this out because we will need these doctors and nurses.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.