Stephanie Woods

Dean, Hunt School of


I recently helped celebrate the

class of 2020’s graduation

from the Gayle Greve Hunt

School of Nursing at Texas Tech

University Health Sciences Center

El Paso. Of course, I did this

from my computer.

But don’t

assume our

new graduates


participated in

this pandemic.

Nursing students

are told early in their training

that someday they may face a

choice between their professional

obligations and their own health,

or the health of their family.

But no one expected for this

choice to come so soon, or for it

to be so stark. Still, our students

stepped up, and our community

should recognize the extraordinary

service of all nursing students

during this time.

In March, Texas Gov. Greg

Abbott and the Texas Board of

Nursing decided that nursing

schools were allowed to exceed

a 50% limit on simulated clinical

practice and extend the period

that graduates and vocational

nurses can practice with a temporary

license. With this decision,

many nursing schools halted clinical

rotations, citing many of the

same considerations we faced:

lack of personal protective equipment,

the stress of health care

providers and potential exposure

for students.

But we knew that even before

the pandemic struck, there was

already a devastating nursing

shortage. We knew that allowing

nursing students, especially graduating

seniors, to remain in clinical

rotations could provide relief

to nurses on the front lines. We

also knew that the knowledge and

skills they would acquire during

the early days of the crisis could

help them better prepare for the

projected surges of the future.

To dive deeper into this battle

of obligation versus protection, I

asked our nursing students about

their concerns. I heard worries

about finding child care, meeting

deadlines, and their concerns

for safety and the safety of loved


Yet even as they expressed

their fears, our student nurses also

relayed amazing stories about

their commitment to their chosen

profession. One recently cared

for a laboring woman who had

no family with her. Another student

told me that now is the time

to be brave.

In the end, we concluded that

now more than ever, it is essential

to prepare our new graduates.

Today our nursing students

and recent graduates are learning

on the front lines, deploying compassion

and care like a weapon

against the ravages of COVID-19.

But their concerns remain. So

please take a moment to thank

the masked figure who is there

to make sure you are not alone.

And if you are able to support our

nursing students with a financial

donation, I hope you will do so.

At my last in-person graduation

in December, I told our

graduating class that they would

always be remembered for their

actions after last August’s mass

shooting. I hoped that would be

the most traumatizing event they

and our city would ever face.

Never did I think we would be

where we are today.

Still, as I told the spring class

of 2020, when life gives you an

experience you would have never

asked for, it refines a treasure

within that you didn’t know existed.

These new nurses are El

Paso’s treasure, and I’m proud to

know them.

Stephanie Woods, Ph.D., R.N., is

dean of the Gayle Greve Hunt School

of Nursing at Texas Tech University

Health Sciences Center El Paso.


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