CLEVELAND — Ashley Bailey has worked in the Northeast Ohio restaurant industry for most of her adult life.
“I did that primarily in the bartender and serving capacity, and then I tried my hand in management for three years,” she said.
But right before the pandemic hit, she knew she needed a change.
“That kind of lost its luster. I got pulled in so many different directions. I had very minimal work-life balance,” she said.
She applied to Hondros College of Nursing because she was craving a job with a purpose.
“To be something to other people, to make a difference,” said Bailey.
And just weeks into her new life as a student, while also bartending on the side, the pandemic started ramping up.
“I remember it was March 15, and I was bartending, and Governor Dewine came on and said, effective tonight at 9:00 p.m., all bars and restaurants were ordered to close,” she said.
But it didn’t scare Bailey, it inspired her.
“If anything, it's solidified my decision because, you know, I don't know if there's anything greater than helping somebody else,” she said.
Bailey isn’t alone in that sentiment. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports a 6% increase in students enrolled in Fall 2020.
“I think that they're seeing the demand, the increased respect, job security, salary, long term profession,” said Anthony Hibbs the regional executive director for Hondros College of Nursing.
Hibbs said Hondros has seen a 45% increase in enrollment compared to this time last year, and he said the demographic of students enrolling is changing, too.
“We are seeing, at both ends, the more professional folks want to come in and some of the younger folks want to come out that have been inspired through this, as well,” he said.
To keep up with that demand, Hondros opened a new campus at the beginning of April in Akron.
“The Akron campus is brand new, so we just started a cohort of roughly 30 licensed practical nursing students there,” he said.
He said as fast as students are enrolling, they’re also many students graduating and beginning their careers in healthcare throughout the state.
“Every market we're in, we get a demand from our community partners almost daily and weekly for job orders,” said Hibbs.
Bailey will graduate in December at 35-years-old.
“At this stage in my life, I almost feel like I have something to prove to myself like I can do this,” she said.
She’s hoping to go into a field that the pandemic has also highlighted a great need for: behavioral and mental health.
“I need to help, and if it takes me a little while to get there, it doesn't matter. But I need to do something about this. I need to play my part,” she said.
A spokesperson for The Cleveland Clinic did not say just how many RN and LPN openings the hospital system currently has, but said it is always looking to recruit and hire skilled nurses.
University Hospitals currently have 565 RN openings.
According to topjobs.ohio.gov, there are nearly 9,000 nursing jobs available in the state.