Some Viterbo students backlogged to complete clinical experience at local hospitals

The university's Dean of College of Nursing expects soon-to-be nurses to graduate on-time

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Wisconsin is about 10,000 nurses short of where we need to be in the workforce, according to the Wisconsin Nurses Association.

Adding fuel to the fire, the pandemic is making it harder for soon-to-be nurses to get their clinical experience at local hospitals.

Soon-to-be nurses at Viterbo University ran into a somewhat unsurprising scenario when COVID hit.

“We did have to leave the clinical site for a lot of reasons,” Viterbo’s Dean of College of Nursing, Health and Human Behavior Martha Scheckel said.

Hospitals closed their doors from outside guests and not enough personal protective equipment was available.

“We had a combination of catch-up plans,” Scheckel said. “We’ve also modified some of our use of simulation.”

Scheckel says undergrads need up to 500 hours logged to complete their clinicals for graduation. Some students right now are backlogged.

“In a couple of facilities, we were put on pause for a few weeks,” Scheckel said.

But for those students doing their work at Mayo Clinic in La Crosse, they’re catching up.

“We brought all of the nursing students back,” Mayo Clinic Health System chief nursing officer Jason Fratzke said.

Fratzke says the hospital has asked them to do more, and they’ve responded.

“You gotta look long-term,” Fratzke said. “And I think what you’re getting at is we want to make sure we have that workforce available to us, and make sure those nurses have a chance to graduate on-time.”

Scheckel has some good news to share.

“We fully anticipate students to graduate on-time as they did in the spring as well,” Scheckel said.

The state needs nurses more than ever.

“My hope is that this is really a call to serve for any prospective nursing student,” Scheckel said.

Especially in a time where patient care is most important.

The nursing association says the state’s population in people ages 65 to 84 will jump 90 percent by 2034.

About half of the nurses in the workforce are 55 years or older.