61 nursing students at Virginia Western to graduate after overcoming pandemic challenges

‘I think they’ve been more stressed than I’ve ever seen’

Dozens of students will graduate as registered nurses from Virginia Western Community College.

ROANOKE, Va. – Dozens of students will graduate as registered nurses from Virginia Western Community College.

10 News talked to them about what it’s been like learning to be a nurse during a pandemic.

“It’s been absolutely crazy. I’m like always like, ‘what was I thinking?’” said Kara Gerenser, a VWCC student and the Nursing Club president. “I don’t want to do something just for the money. I want to feel good going to work and coming home and I feel like taking care of people in the hospital when they’re in their worst moments and making them feel a little bit better. I just, it makes my heart warm.”

For Emily Howell, the pandemic didn’t change her goals.

“I knew that I wanted to do regardless,” said Howell, who has already accepted a job in the mother-baby unit of Carilion.

Sixty-one Virginia Western Community College students made it through.

“I think they’ve been more stressed than I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen the level of stress that we’ve seen in the past, I would say 18 months. And how do they handle it? I think there’s a lot of resilience and persistence and a lot of teamwork,” said Lauren Hayward, the director of nursing.

Hayward says it was tough to get hands-on time with schedule changes, students going to school when their kids were home and getting clinical hours when everything was shutting down.

“They’re very dedicated and I think if anything they’ve been vetted right. Their desire to be a nurse has been vetted and challenged over and over and over again,” said Hayward.

“It has made us so strong and I think we’re just going to be such a great group of nurses when it’s all said and done,” said Gerenser.

Graduation is in May. Hayward says many of them have multiple job offers because nurses are in such demand right now.


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