FULLERTON, Calif. (KABC) -- A group of nursing students at California State University Fullerton is completing required clinical hours, outside the clinical setting, to graduate as scheduled while helping healthcare workers across Orange County battle COVID-19.
Nursing student Chris Yoo imagined his medical education and career would be a traditional one - helping patients heal in clinical settings.
But things changed in March 2020 with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Yoo was two months away from graduation.
"A lot of the hospitals started dismissing the students and barring the students from coming in," Yoo said, adding, "we were worried that if the school couldn't find something to replace those clinical hours that we wouldn't be able to graduate on time."
That's a hard hit for California where the Health Resources and Services Administration projects a shortage of 44,500 registered nurses by the year 2030.
Yoo and his cohort of 69 were just more than halfway through the state's clinical hours requirement.
CSUF School of Nursing Assistant Professor Christine Vu and other faculty were left searching for a solution.
"Having them meet their hours has been quite a challenge and it's something that we all as faculty and the school of nursing and the university are working on. We have to communicate with the California Board of Registered Nursing in order to achieve a certain number of hours," Vu said.
The answer for the CSUF program was the Orange County Healthcare Agency's Operations Center.
Here, the nursing students take temperature readings of county employees, research and analyze how OC compares to others in its response to COVID-19 and ensure the quality and quantity of the medical supplies going to healthcare workers on the front lines.
Yoo helped fight the virus in a way he never imagined - quality control in a county warehouse tracking N95 masks.
"I felt privileged and blessed that I was able to have that opportunity to go out and help even if it was just through quality control, but actually do something that played a part helping the healthcare workers," Yoo said.
Yoo completed his clinical hours requirement and hoped to take his licensing exam and be working in the field by August.
Another challenge these students may face are delays in testing. On its website, the Board of Registered Nursing warned of possible changes and delays to testing because of physical distancing requirements and asked people to check back regularly for updates.
OC nursing students trying to graduate while already helping battle COVID-19