BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — As the need for healthcare workers increases across the nation, organizations in the Metro Baton Rouge area hope to persuade more people to enter the field of nursing – especially minorities.

“The industry, the hospitals just don’t have enough nurses to care for the patients. They’re relying right now on travel nursing which is very expensive — very costly,” said Dr. Sandra Brown, dean of Southern University’s College of Nursing.

With more than 6,000 vacant nursing positions across the state of Louisiana, Southern University is working to curve that number by graduating at least 150 to 170 students each year.

Dr. Gina Lagarde with the Louisiana Department of Health says, “They are integral and necessary to ensure we maximize the care and the health of citizens.” 

Brown says the pandemic contributed to the greater appreciation for nurses.

While COVID-19 drove more people toward the profession, Brown says for some, it was the opposite.

“What it did do was force some nurses who were already in the profession to retire or leave because of the stress and strain,” said Brown.

Southern University is ranked No. 1 for nursing in the state of Louisiana. 

According to Brown, Southern University is also one of the largest producers of African-American nurses in the nation. 

Ty’Jay Wilson is a recent graduate who says having more nurses of color is crucial.

“It’s more relatable when you walk into the room and you see a person of your skin color that can explain it to you. And you also can relate to what they’re also trying to tell you,” said Wilson.

As a first-generation HBCU student, Wilson hopes to inspire others to pursue a career in nursing or healthcare.

“As long as you put in the hard work. As long as you dedicate the time, you do what you need to do, anything is possible. And that’s something that I had to learn. You have to persevere through the hard times,” said Wilson.

To learn more about the nursing programs in your area, contact the Louisiana Workforce Commission.