TEMPE, AZ — Arizona, like many areas across the country, is dealing with nursing shortages, but the Valley is taking a big step to help fill the void.
For Ceysha Lee, it's about family.
"I really want to go back to the reservation and be a nurse to work in healthcare,” said Lee.
She and her family live in Window Rock. There, she says, health disparities such as a lack of healthcare on the Navajo Nation made her want to become a nurse.
COVID hit the reservation hard early on in the pandemic.
"A lot of elders got sick and passed. My people were affected. We ran out of PPE back home,” added Lee.
Lee's grandmother is one of those who died. While she died from something else, Lee’s grandmother is with her through the clothing she wore at graduation.
Emily Ibarra's grandma inspired her to be a nurse.
"I actually applied and didn't get in on the first round,” said Ibarra.
But, like Lee and hundreds of others, Ibarra eventually made it.
Since 2017, ASU has seen increases in the number of nursing program graduates. The number then was 300. The number this year is 642. The school held five convocations for the graduates on Wednesday.
A lot has changed with patients since Ibarra started nursing school.
"I am even more excited to now go and be their primary care RN, be able to control their care and help especially those struggling with the pandemic,” said Ibarra.
This group is ready, as nursing shortages remain a concern nationwide, to help fill the void.
Some of the grads already have jobs while others will be hired as soon as they get their licenses. Once the new nurses begin working, many living in the Valley are the ones who will get the real benefit.
"It's important for the health of the people who live here. It is important for the economy and the people who work here. It's good for the world because we are going to make a difference in keeping people healthy,” said Dr. Judy Karshmer, Dean of the Edson College of Nursing at ASU.