UVM nursing students who graduated early to join front lines of pandemic have no regrets


Back in April, nursing students were given the option to graduate two and a half weeks early after intense discussion of nursing shortages and potential outbursts. Nearly all nursing students accepted the early graduation date.

It’s now been 6 months since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and a handful of courageous Catamounts have a few months of work experience under their belts.

“They presented us with this opportunity to graduate early so that if needed we could go out into the community and at this time we were preparing for overflow in the gymnasium here,” said recent graduate Kelsey White, a registered nurse at UVM Medical Center.

White’s first day was back in June, a month earlier than planned.

“It was just an absolute yes from I think 100% of the nursing students. We were like, we would be more than happy to work a little bit harder these next couple weeks to graduate early and help our community,” said White.

She explained the pandemic hindered her and her classmates from experiencing their practicum, an 8-week program designed to give nurses that hands-on, leadership training. But she says jumping in right away was that training.

“I think it’s been a very interesting time to start a career in the health care field, but it’s also been very rewarding because we’re really seeing the effects of our work,” said White.

White was classmates with nursing student Xavier Giddings who spends three days a week working at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

“I’ll work overnights, I’ll work daytime, 12-hour shifts,” said Giddings.

That’s on top of grad school, which he is beginning at UVM this fall. Growing up, Giddings always knew he wanted to work in a hospital.

“I got a job at a nursing home type setting, and it just further cemented my interest and desire to be in that field,” said Giddings.

Like him, White was inspired to become a nurse after working in a nursing home. But for her, that wasn’t always the plan.

“No,” White laughed. “My senior year of high school, I was applying to interior design schools.”

But once she found nursing, she never looked back. The same goes for Giddings who aspires to be a nurse practitioner. Both are looking forward to the year ahead.

“I think it’ll be a great year. I’m very excited. I love everyone I work with and the patient population is just wonderful. It’s very rewarding every single day,” said White.

“I’m excited to see what the school year brings. I’m excited to see how Vermont and UVM and different colleges around the community handle everything that’s going on,” said Giddings.

He says while there are fears about students living on campus, many of them serve the local community and hopes we can all be safe and responsible.

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