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Nurses Week 2022: JCC nursing graduates to join Samaritan workforce

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WATERTOWN — In celebration of National Nurses Week, which begins each year on May 6 and ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12, soon-to-be graduates of the nursing program at Jefferson Community College are reflecting on the past four semesters and looking to the future.

Grace A. Matthews has always known nursing was the career for her. Fellow students Jennifer L. and Georgia L. Barton, mother and daughter, respectively, also enjoy the challenges of their chosen paths and the fact that nursing keeps them on their toes. Jennifer Barton was a teacher prior to joining the nursing program, and said she wanted to have more of an impact on the lives of others. The two say going through the program at the same time has pushed them to be better and brought them closer together.

All three will join the nursing workforce at Samaritan Medical Center.

“For this group in particular, we struggled a little bit coming into this. We were challenged due to the pandemic having our first semester virtual for the majority,” Mrs. Matthews said. “We weren’t able to be in person and so we had virtual clinicals, which is not the same, so coming into it as second-semester students we had to play catch up.”

While the pandemic put pressure on the new nursing students, it put even more on registered nurses working amid many unknowns. The pandemic stressed nurses nationwide as hospitalizations surged and patient needs increased, causing demand for nurses to soar.

Before the pandemic, nursing shortages fluctuated due to various factors. Starting in March 2020, the nursing workforce — the largest group of health care professionals in the country — suffered even more losses.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 194,500 average annual openings for registered nurses between 2020 and 2030, with employment projected to grow 9%.

Samaritan will soon be hiring graduating nurses, including Mrs. Matthews and Jennifer and Georgia Barton. The hospital hired 11 graduates in January from JCC and Canton-Potsdam Hospital who are now finishing orientation, and 24 more graduates will be hired by the end of the summer.

“We are getting back, but we still will have open nursing positions,” said Samaritan’s Chief Nursing Officer Jacqueline A. Dawe. “We had a lot of nurses retire from the industry once the pandemic started and then we had a lot of staff go traveling, they became traveler nurses. We’re not unique; a lot of the hospitals experienced this nationally as well.”

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