Students Work to Ease Burden During Nationwide Nursing Shortage

Helping Hands program allows nursing students to provide real-world support.

Through an innovative program, Jefferson College of Nursing (JCN) students work to lessen the burden on nurses as the country makes its way out of the pandemic. 

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Jefferson Methodist Hospital and Abington Hospital—Jefferson Health participate in Jefferson’s Helping Hands program, says JCN associate dean Dr. Jennifer Bellot. This program uses student flexibility and availability to meet a pressing need for staff during and after the most recent COVID surge. 

“JCN students provided nearly 800 hours of hands-on support in the clinical setting and, in turn, gained valuable clinical experience that ensured they could meet clinical course objectives,” Dr. Bellot says.

After the spread of the Omicron variant, students often had to make up missed clinical hours. Laura Wu was one of many students who chose to pick up shifts through Jefferson’s Helping Hands program.  

Now a Thomas Jefferson University Hospital trauma nurse, recent grad Gianna Oldrati says assisting nurses on the floor gave her valuable experience. (Photos by ©Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services)

The first-year nursing student aided nurses with clinical support, taking patients’ vitals, giving care to moms and newborns, retrieving supplies and collecting patient information.

“This served as a great opportunity for me and my classmates,” Wu says. “We took a hands-on approach to our education while assisting nurses.”

Class of 2021 JCN grad Gianna Oldrati gained her experience on a patient unit during clinical hours. Now a trauma nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Oldrati believes assisting nurses on the floor gave her the valuable experience she needed. 

“I always tried to help the nurses in any way I could,” she says. “I answered call bells for them, helped out with patients not assigned to me and would often be an extra set of hands when nurses were washing patients. It allowed me to work with patients with different conditions.”

Nursing Student Laura Wu at Abington Dixon Campus
Nursing student Laura Wu picked up shifts through Jefferson’s Helping Hands program.

As stressful as these times can be, Oldrati encourages JCN students to find enjoyment in what they do. 

“There will be days that you don’t feel like you did enough or that you could have done better, but so many moments make it all worth it,” she says. “Helping a patient be more comfortable or doing something that makes them feel better gives you an amazing sense of satisfaction.” 

While some nurses recently have moved on to other opportunities, JCN students stay steadfast on their tracks to become nurses. 

“At the end of the day, we came into this field to help people,” Wu says. “We haven’t lost sight of that.”

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