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From learning online to working on the front lines: New Maine nurses are ready to fight COVID-19

Nursing students at Saint Joseph's College graduate on Saturday. Shortly after the celebration, they'll be getting to work at hospitals around Maine

MAINE, USA — Maine's colleges will be holding virtual graduations in the coming weeks to honor their students as they begin their next chapter. 

For some students that next chapter is a big question mark. With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the job market, those students may have to wait before entering the workforce.

For nursing students at Saint Joseph's College, the next chapter is already written. After Saturday's graduation, they'll begin positions at local hospitals to help fight COVID-19.

Grace Dehmer is from Bridgton and, after graduation, she will begin working at Mercy Hospital. 

“No matter what as a new grad nurse it’s very anxiety-provoking, very daunting, and with everything else going on right now, it’s a whole other level,” Dehmer said.

Jordan Garrigan-Swett is a Standish native and, in the next few weeks, he will begin his position as an oncology nurse at Maine Medical Center. He said working during the coronavirus pandemic will be a challenge, but that's what he signed up for.

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“Us as nursing students heading into the nursing field, we’re going to learn how to be resilient and adapt to different challenges, not just this," Garrigan-Swett said,

Also working at Maine Medical Center will be Jessica Patterson of Saco. With "thank you" images and videos for nurses being spread across the country, Patterson doesn't want the thanks - she wants to help.

Credit: Grace Dehmer

“I don’t really think I’m a hero or anything, this is just what I want to do with my life, I want to help people," Patterson added.

Dr. Anthony McGuire is a professor and the Chair of the Nursing Department at Saint Joe's. He himself is also a registered nurse. He said the online learning transition was as seamless as possible.

“I think we pulled off the end of the school year, including the clinical, pretty well," McGuire said.

These seniors were still able to complete the required coursework to graduate and have accumulated most if not all of their internship and clinical hours. McGuire added his students are ready to get to work and they're ready for the challenge.

“It’s kind of an honor to be able to enter the field right now with everything going on," Dehmer said.

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