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KEYER — The nursing profession had its beginnings more than 160 years ago when the well-educated daughter of affluent British parents, Florence Nightingale, challenged the social conventions of her day and chose to become a nurse because she was passionate about improving the care of sick patients . That same passion continues with today’s nurses.

“I’ve always wanted to become an orthopedic nurse. My mother is a registered nurse and has encouraged and supported me in my journey of becoming a nurse,” said Bethany Smith, who was among the first graduating class in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at West Virginia University School of Nursing on the Potomac State College campus. “And besides, nursing is an ever-evolving field that offers lifelong learning, flexibility, and the opportunity to work in specialized areas from pediatric patients to the geriatric population.”

For most, nursing isn’t just a job or a career—it’s a way to make a difference in the lives of others and a way to show kindness and compassion to those who may be all alone in the world. It’s calming the fears of a child who’s endured one too many surgeries or holding the hand of a stranger as they die. And yet, as emotionally and physically draining as some aspects can be, nursing remains one of the most rewarding career choices for both men and women.

“The joys of nursing are being able to assist others in making health-related behavior changes that positively impact their future; being a source of health education, encouragement and comfort; and being a trusted confidant to those who need us,” Diana Niland, a faculty member with the BSN program and a nurse practitioner on campus, said. “While nurses do a lot of educating, we are also blessed to learn so much from patients themselves.”

Nursing offers individuals the opportunity to practice their skills locally, nationally or internationally in a variety of settings. Approximately 194,500 openings for registered nurses are projected each year over the next decade. Employment growth is also projected to be much faster than average in outpatient care centers, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I was unsure of my career path for many years,” said BSN graduate Nathaniel Evans, “but in addition to giving back to the community and helping others, one of the most interesting things about nursing is the vast amount of opportunities.”

April Shapiro, department chair for the WVU Keyser BSN program, said there is an urgent need for nurses.

“COVID has impacted nursing in ways we never imagined, from the frontlines to nursing classrooms,” Shapiro said. “Nursing’s response to the pandemic represents our nature — to pull together during times of crises to meet the needs of our patients, communities, and each other. We need nurses now more than ever, not only to help patients cope with the after-effects of the pandemic, but also to advocate for them as they navigate their everyday health and wellness needs. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system and the most trusted professionals on the healthcare team. We need new nurses to carry on nursing’s strong traditions as we forge new paths in patient care.”

The WVU School of Nursing Potomac State College BSN program is accepting applications for fall semester through March 15.

For more information about the nursing profession or the WVU Keyser BSN program, contact April Shapiro at [email protected] or at (304) 788-7175.

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