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'I Just Feel Kind Of Lost,' Licensing Exam Delays Leave New Nursing Grads Unable To Work

NORTHBORO (CBS) -- A St. Anselm College graduate with a degree in nursing, Natalie Rodgers is ready to get to work. She spent her final clinical rotation working with critically ill COVID patients in the ICU and is confident she's well prepared for her career.

"It was scary at first," she said remembering back to those first days in the COVID unit. "I had to wear the full gown, masks, gloves, everything. But I absolutely loved it."

Instead of taking care of patients now, she is spending her summer walking the family dog, volunteering at vaccine clinics with her mom, and studying for her licensing exam. The problem is she has no idea when she's going to take that test.

"I'm kind of just waiting to get that email," Rodgers told WBZ-TV.

The email she is waiting for is from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in nursing. That is how she'll be notified that she can go ahead and schedule her licensure exam. But so far, she, and many of her nursing grad friends have heard nothing.

"I don't have a job. I'm a new grad, I see all my friends doing their new jobs. I just feel kind of lost right now," she said, fighting back tears.

"It's frustrating for me as a mother," said Mary Rogers, who is also a nurse. "I took my test within two weeks of graduating and I started working right away."

According to the state, the problem is due to the thousands of temporary licenses issued during the pandemic to take care of COVID patients. All of those nurses now need permanent licenses.

In an email, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health told WBZ, "This unprecedented volume of pandemic-related licenses, coupled with the influx of new graduates resulted in some licensure delays."

The spokesperson also said they only became aware of the problem about a week ago and the state is working to increase staff to handle the backlog. They expect new grads who submitted all the proper transcripts and paperwork to get the emails with info on scheduling their tests within seven days.

Natalie said she's ready to stop studying and start putting what she has learned to good use.

"I am definitely ready to start working as a nurse," she said.

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