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University of Delaware hopes to help with ongoing nursing shortage

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

The University of Delaware seeks to graduate more nurses ready to address an ongoing nursing shortage exacerbated by the pandemic.

UD asked state lawmakers for an additional $7.3 million in funding for its College of Health Sciences, a portion of which will help boost its nursing program and create a pipeline to the profession.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a dire need for nurses in Delaware, especially Sussex County.

Dr. Elizabeth Speakman is the Senior Associate Dean of Nursing, and the Chief Executive Nurse in UD’s School of Nursing.

She says that UD students and faculty have worked to help address that issue over the past 2 years.

During the COVID surge this past winter, the University allowed students to come back from break early to help Delaware nurses deal with the onslaught of patients.

“We had a cadre of students who chose to forgo their winter break and come and do clinical early because there was a dire shortage and need in the Delaware area, especially in Sussex county,” Speakman explained. “And our students stepped up to the plate. Our faculty stepped up to the plate. And they helped out in relieving nurses from their exhaustion.”

She added that supporting the Delaware community has always been a priority at UD. The pandemic allowed them to show that support.

“That’s a big part of our mission and vision in the school of nursing is to be able to support all of Delaware. It’s a great state for nurses to practice. And so we want to encourage every nursing student to stay in Delaware and care for Delawareans.”

ud_nursing _program_debrief.jpg
Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media
Debrief session following simulations help UD nursing students hone their craft

The program offers state of the art facilities that allow students to participate in medical simulations, where they learn how to interact with patients, perform tasks, and react to unprecedented situations in a stable environment.

Junior UD nursing student Sophia Ciniglia says she saw UD’s nursing facilities when she toured the school, and they were a big reason why she chose UD.

“Knowing how much simulation and how much experience and practice we would get before graduating and going right into work was really, like, what set me going here,” Ciniglia said.

Simulations involve real people who are a part of UD’s Healthcare Theatre Program. They help healthcare students develop both interpersonal and technical skills.

Following a simulation, students do a debrief with their classmates and instructors to discuss their choices, and what they could do to improve.

UD hopes to expand their nursing facilities to better accommodate the influx of students they expect to get over time.

Corrected: March 22, 2022 at 4:38 PM EDT
A previous version of this story reported UD's $7.3 million dollar funding request was for its nursing program. That funding request is for the university's College of Health Sciences, a portion of which would go to the nursing program. Delaware Public Media apologies for the error.
Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021