UNB early nursing graduate thankful “to offer a hand however I can”

Laura Cook is happy to be preparing for a night shift that starts at seven o’clock.

She finished her nursing degree at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton a few weeks ago, despite the disruption COVID-19 caused at post–secondary schools country–wide.

Even with the campus closing early, Cook said she was able to finish the requirements of her nursing degree, allowing her to begin her career as a nurse earlier than expected. 

She said she’s grateful for the opportunity, especially with COVID-19 looming over healthcare workers.

“It’s better to have us accelerated in the workforce and being able to help,’ she said.

“I’m thankful for being able to be started early rather than later.”

No classes on campus

Cook said she expected her practicum, or preceptorship to last 12 weeks, but it ended earlier when  COVID-19 hit, but regardless, “I feel ready now.”

“We were already off of campus and our class was online so it wasn’t a big change when it came to UNB closing,” said Cook.

Without on–campus classes, UNB’s nursing program was able to speed up the graduation process, with students finishing their degrees about a month early.

Cook said it’s a relief to be able to put her training to work during a pandemic, rather than to be waiting at home for the proper paperwork.

Fourth-year nursing students from the University of New Brunswick graduated earlier than usual this year so they could join the fight against COVID-19. 0:58

Cook started her new job as a casual nurse at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on Monday.

And while she isn’t working directly with COVID-19 patients, she said the pandemic affects the entire healthcare system.

“I would say everyone working in the hospital is involved with what is happening with COVID-19 in the sense of extra precautions, having to make sure you’re following specific protocols, wearing masks, doing everything you can and making sure you monitor everyone for signs,” said Cook.

All requirements completed

Despite the early finish, UNB spokesperson Kelsey Pye said, “all UNB nursing graduates completed the necessary requirements for their degree program.” 

She said that courses not completed in the field were done on-line and with ‘virtual simulation.”

Jennifer Whitehead, with the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB), said speeding up the process of graduation was done through the nursing program at UNB.

“Once we receive the names verified by the universities, NB nursing graduates can commence the process to receive a temporary registration for a two year period.”

Whitehead explained that graduates of a nursing degree program can work in a hospital, but still need to write a final exam before becoming a registered nurse. That normally has to be done within six months to maintain temporary registration.

“At this time, test sites are closed therefore NANB has waived that requirement until the test sites re-open.

Between the Saint John and Fredericton UNB campuses, 92 nursing students graduated this spring.

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