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Dean Marino

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Name: Marie Ann Marino, EdD, RN, FAAN
Position: Dean and Professor, Jefferson College of Nursing

JCN Class of 2020 Dives Into Worldwide Pandemic Crisis

Perhaps no graduates of the Jefferson College of Nursing have ever walked out of the classroom and into such a challenging environment as the Class of 2020. The COVID-19 global pandemic has thrust nurses and other healthcare professionals into the spotlight, challenging their skills and dedication at levels not seen in decades. Our latest nursing graduates face a trial by fire they surely couldn’t have imagined on their first day in class.

JCN expects to graduate nearly 320 students in early May, and another 100 in August. Past graduates have looked toward passing the RN licensing exam, NCLEX-RN, before entering practice. But COVID-19 has forced the temporary closure of many NCLEX-RN testing sites as a safety precaution. 

Jefferson nurses wearing masks
New Jefferson graduates will practice under the supervision of experienced nurses.

Pennsylvania’s Department of State, rather than have new nursing school graduates stand idly by during the pandemic and await testing sites to reopen, suspended some nursing licensing and regulatory requirements. The goal has been to get every hand available into the fight against the deadly virus as soon as possible, while still assuring the highest quality care for everyone, whether they are struggling with the virus or any other condition.

In a move replicated by many other states, the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing is temporarily allowing new graduates to enter practice now and take the NCLEX-RN exam after this COVID-19 storm passes—with certain restrictions.

Once students finish their degree requirements and the state verifies their education, they will be authorized to test for and receive a graduate permit. This will allow them to practice under the supervision of experienced nurses and sit for the NCLEX-RN once testing centers open back up. With Jefferson historically seeing 92 percent of its graduates pass their licensing exam the first time around, we are confident that the vast majority of this spring’s class can help address the pandemic right away.

Also as part of the effort to move graduates into actual working roles as quickly as possible, I am working closely with Dr. Susan Campbell, Jefferson’s chief nurse executive, to develop a pathway for JCN’s newly graduated nurses to seamlessly transition to clinical roles in Jefferson Health. 

Dr. Campbell says:

"During this unprecedented pandemic, we are exploring innovative ways to connect these new graduates with our leaders in the clinical area of their choice. Our latest is a series of virtual interview sessions. We are looking forward to welcoming our new graduates to our Pathway Programs.”

And graduating JCN student Grace Cho says:

 “Although everything is very uncertain and scary, I am very excited to be starting my nursing career right now. This virus will shed more insight on how to better manage epidemiological crises, patients clinically and emotionally, and allocation of resources. But just as importantly, if not more, it will also help people understand the importance of primary prevention and other public health measures we need to take to avoid problems like this and to be as healthy as we can. I know through all of this I will learn and grow so much as a new-to-practice nurse. And I am hopeful that this will help create a healthier future for the world.”

Again, this pandemic suddenly has thrust immense burdens upon our health system. The demand for well-prepared professionals, at all levels, has never been greater, and this year’s JCN graduates will be called on to bolster and support more experienced nurses to an extent we could not have anticipated until this academic year was well under way.

But I am confident that our graduates will rise to the moment and make key contributions to overcoming this daunting challenge.

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