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Nursing Students In Colorado Maintain Some Optimism: 'Here To Take Care Of You'

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - People are still seeking nursing careers in spite of the stories of stressed out and overworked nurses.

"I don't see myself doing anything else," said University of Colorado College of Nursing student Shannon Crowson.

Enrollment at the school is up 4%, but hanging over the Class of 2022 and 2023 will likely be the COVID pandemic.

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"Yeah that's just a thing I guess with this new generation of nurses that everyone's going to see is that we grew up in a pandemic, and I think that's just going to be how we practice. On high stress alert, and that's just what we're going to get used to," said Crowson.

Nursing shortages that have become more severe in the pandemic are causing problems with staff adjusting to working extra shifts.

"I think people are still going into nursing for all the right reasons," said Dr. Tammy Spencer, assistant dean of the undergraduate program at the CU College of Nursing and a veteran nurse who still does hospital shifts. She reads the applications. "I still get that theme. 'I want to help people, I want to make a difference. I've had an experience myself or with my family that has really drawn me into this profession.'"

Kristin Fellows made a life-changing decision after giving birth and after seven years as a travel agent went back to school to pursue a career as a nurse midwife.

"I really felt like I had an opportunity to make other women's experience with birth different."

That kind of belief in change is still a big motivator, said Spencer.

Nursing has been beset by change and wages.

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"I think that especially in the state of Colorado where the cost of living has continued to go up, that nurses' wages have not followed that. And so that's certainly a consideration when you're looking at career choices."

The most recent survey of wages in Colorado by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, completed in 2020, shows the average yearly salary for a registered nurse in the state is a little over $76,000.

The hiring of traveling nurses who work short term, some of whom are making three times the weekly wage and hospitals raising compensation has likely boosted that, but wages may still be running behind cost of living increases.

Nurses are not only stressed by COVID care, but shortages and less patient time as technology as demanded more as well, but they are taught not to be judgmental.

"We're here to take care of you, period. And so all of those preconceived notions, assumptions, biases, those get checked at the door," said Spencer.

There's still optimism and nursing schools have always benefited from that, as well as patients.

"And I think that's what we need in nursing right now is people that have hope and have the belief that things can get better. But I'm not a burnt out nurse that's been working through the pandemic every day. So I take my hat off to them," said Fellows.

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