Filling the gap: local teens hoping to help solve nursing shortage

Through programs at Erie 1 BOCES
Posted at 5:51 PM, May 22, 2023

KENMORE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Students in classrooms at Erie 1 BOCES know how important it is that they're learning the ropes of the nursing profession.

"We're all aware that there's a major shortage, there's a lot of pressure on students to go in and fill the gap, but it's definitely very rewarding," said Angelina Khouri, a senior at Kenmore East High School.

She and Julia Capage have known it's the career path for them since the 6th grade.

Why is there a shortage?
Numbers have been dwindling for years and experts predict New York will be short 40,000 nurses by 2030.

Staffing problems accelerated after certain COVID-19 policies took effect, including vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, announced in August 2021. Everyone needed to be fully vaccinated by November or risk losing their jobs.

New York projected to be down 40,000 nurses in 2023
New York projected to be down 40,000 nurses in 2023

34,000 employees did not meet the requirement, roughly 3.5% percent of the healthcare workforce, according to state data.

"I don't think that's a problem, we have people that want to now come back to the state of New York," said Hochul in response to questions about the impact of this mandate.

What's being done to fix it?
Erie 1 BOCES is surging with high schoolers and adults who want to fill this gap. People like Angelina and Julia.

"Knowing I'm fulfilling something for a greater purpose makes it all better," said Khouri.

A group from the adult program just graduated on May 4 and another group started a program a few days later.

Hospital groups are taking advantage of this surge in students.

"Everyone wants us in clinical facilities, that's wonderful. There's hundreds of jobs available for nurses from RNs to LPNs to CNAs," said Deborah Summers, Senior Supervisor, Health Programs and Health Services for Erie 1 BOCES.

Erie 1 BOCES' high school nursing program to double this fall
Erie 1 BOCES' high school nursing program to double this fall

But it's no secret there's burnout in a tough field like this.

"I think it's important for future nurses to see that they have options and if they don't like something they can shift to another specialty...if you're feeling burnt out and feeling affected by it, you can change," said Maggie Holler, Nursing Instructor.

The goal is to change this trend and bring back the passion for nursing in WNY.

To learn more about the Erie 1 BOCES nursing programs, click here.