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Applications to nursing and medical schools climbed in 2020

More students are applying to medical and nursing schools, according to recent studies. Colleges say students were inspired by pandemic response.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The heroics from healthcare workers during the pandemic are inspiring the next generation as nursing and medical schools report an increase in applications.

“I’m just really excited to go headfirst into it,” Gardner-Webb University junior Ashley Cesario said.

Cesario has never been one to be afraid of the deep end. She was brought to her university to swim, but she has been using her time at her school to dive into her next passion, nursing.

“I ended up getting an opportunity to work at a pediatric clinic my senior year of high school and I really, really enjoyed that,” Cesario said.

Over the course of the past year, more students like Cesario have expressed interest in healthcare professions. Applications to nursing and medical schools have increased.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, enrollment in nursing programs increased 6% in 2020.

According to Google, “nurse” was the number one term people searched ‘how to become’ in 2020.

The Association of American Medical Colleges reported applications are “at an all-time high.” Medical schools reported an 18% increase on average in 2020.

“I feel like the pandemic and watching what people are doing maybe it created a rise in people of like, 'Ooh, I want to be able to help in some way if this ever happens again,'” Cesario said.

At Winthrop University in Rock Hill, they are planning for a surge in students in medical fields.

“We believe there will be quite an interest in the pursuit of pre-medical careers,” said Takita Sumter, the Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Winthrop.

As the university makes its long-term plans, Sumter said they are anticipating shifting resources to meet the growing demand in medical fields.

For students like Cesario, hands-on experience with patients is something she expects and anticipates in the next academic year.

The pandemic hit just as she was starting to work with actual patients. She went from an up-close-and-personal education to watching from the sidelines.
Cesario said as she saw the important role nurses have played this year, it underscored why she chose her career path; she is more excited than ever to pursue a nursing degree.

“I did have that urge,” she said. “I want to see what it’s like and I want to help if they need it.”