California nursing students left in limbo by coronavirus pandemic get path to degree through simulations

California
Nursing students and instructors await a shift change in the intensive care unit at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica in 2014.(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Nursing students and instructors await a shift change in the intensive care unit at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica in 2014.(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

 Thousands of California nursing students left in limbo over the past month by the coronavirus pandemic will have a path toward graduation after state regulators took action late Friday.

Because of the outbreak, hospitals began shutting down hands-on training for medical students — a key requirement for graduation — because of the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.

That left up to 10,000 nursing students who were close to graduating without a way to complete their degree requirements and enter the workforce at a time when California is seeking more medical workers to fight the virus.

Students already nearing graduation will now be able to fulfill up to half of their clinical requirements through simulations and lab-based training, the Department of Consumer Affairs announced. Previously, simulations could only account for a quarter of that training.

Nursing schools had clamored for the change since early March as the virus began to sweep the nation.

“It was necessary to waive these requirements to meet the ongoing needs of California’s health care system and allow nursing students to graduate on time,” said Kimberly Kirchmeyer, director of the consumer affairs department.

New York and other states already allow up to half of a nursing student’s clinical hours to come from simulations that mimic a wide variety of scenarios, such as childbirth. Other states this month also relaxed rules to allow nurses to graduate and help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which for most people causes mild symptoms but for some can lead to pneumonia and death.

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