The COVID-19 crisis is causing nurses in the U.S. to quit and become exhausted. Yet, applications to nursing schools are increasing, driven by young people who see the global crisis as both an opportunity and a threat.

Brianna Monte, a University of Connecticut sophomore, is one of them. She’s a 19 year old from Mahopac, New York. She had considered majoring in education, but she decided to study nursing after seeing nurses care for her 84 years-old grandmother, who was also diagnosed with COVID-19 last year.

She said, “They were changing out their protective gear between each patient, running like mad trying to ensure all of their patients were taken care of,” “I had that moment when I realized that I wanted to join the frontline workers in health care.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the national enrollment in bachelor’s, graduate, and doctoral nursing programs increased by 5.6% in 2020 compared to the previous year to just over 250,000 students .

Although figures for the current school year 2021-22 will not be available until January of this year, administrators claim they continue to see an increase in interest.

According to the University of Michigan, there were approximately 1,800 applications for 150 slots in the University of Michigan’s nursing school this fall compared to 1,200 in 2019.

Marie Nolan, the executive vice dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, stated that it has received its highest number of applicants in years. Many of these people applied even before a vaccine was made available. This is despite concerns about COVID-19 scaring off students.

These and other schools provided valuable experience for students during the pandemic. They were able to do COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and worked at community vaccination clinics.

Nolan stated, “We’ve told the students, ‘This is a job opportunity that you’ll not see again.'”

Emma Champlin is a Fresno State nursing student in her first year. She said she, like many of her classmates, saw the pandemic a chance to acquire critical-care skills and then use them. She said that she was young and her immune system is strong so the thought of contracting the virus did not scare her.

The 21-year old said, “It’s time for us to step up and give it all.

A higher number of students could alleviate a nursing shortage that existed before COVID-19. However, it has also brought with it its own problems. Many nursing programs are unable to expand due to the loss of experienced nurses who were trained to teach students.