UCF is rapidly pursuing nursing degrees to help address the nursing shortage

Sample Ybañez was the cool high school chemistry teacher who ran interactive classes with her students.

Sayid Yasin earned his living as an IT consultant.

On paper, it seemed unlikely that the couple would become part of the next generation of nurses in Central Florida.

But Ybañez and Yasin both made radical changes to change their careers. They are among the newest University of Central Florida (UCF) Nursing graduates entering the workforce at a crucial time as hospitals face critical nursing staff shortages. Last year the Florida Hospital Association predicts the shortage will escalate to nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035.

UCF — which graduates more new nurses each year than any other state university institution, school officials said — provides a fast track for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to become a nurse.

“In the past three years alone, more than 200 UCF ‘career changers’ have provided hospitals and healthcare providers with much-needed nurses across the region and state,” according to the University of Central Florida.

Each summer, the program accepts 70 more students into the accelerated Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at UCF.

Students’ previous degrees may be in biology, health sciences, psychology, economics, law, and even music. They are clearly bright, with an average approved GPA of 3.6. And what they’re going to do is intense.

Ybañez and Yasin completed their nursing degrees in 16 months, faster than the traditional nursing program, which typically takes 21 months. Students complete the same number of hours in lectures, laboratories and clinics, but take more lectures during the semester as well as during the two summer semesters.

“In the first semester I thought I couldn’t do it. If I’m honest, I wanted to quit and go back to teaching for the first two weeks because it was tough,” Ybañez said. “In addition to nursing school, I had a part-time job as a waitress. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically during that time.”

But Ybañez didn’t give up. She stuck with it. She compared nursing school to a tough hike. “The path is difficult and the learning curve is steep, but it’s definitely worth it when you get to the top,” she said.

UCF admin Jessica Simmons called the accelerated degree “a great way for people who weren’t originally interested in nursing to quickly start a career in the field.”

“We see that the pandemic has inspired many to take an interest in healthcare professions,” said Simmons, associate dean of studies at the UCF College of Nursing. “It’s incredibly important to provide as many entry-level nursing courses as possible to graduate new nurses who are ready to enter the workforce and address the nursing shortage.”

One of them was Yasin, who said he was motivated to become a nurse himself by the nurses who were working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. He came from a long line of nurses in his family.

“My family members have been a source of inspiration and support throughout my nursing career,” said Yasin. “My father has been an emergency room nurse at a Level 1 trauma center in New York City for over 30 years. My mother also returned to nursing school to care for her children almost two decades after dropping out of school.”

Both Yasin and Ybañez will work at AdventHealth Orlando to start her new career.

“If all goes according to plan, I want to give back to the communities that helped shape the person I am today. I plan to do some global health outreaches and one day become a nurse and work with underserved communities,” Ybañez said.

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