UK HealthCare

Answering the Call: UK Grads Step Up Amidst Nursing Shortage

Four nurses
Recent UK College of Nursing graduates Marquiana Porcena, Kent Brouwer, Claire-Marie Hall and Ronald Duerr pictured in front of Chandler Hospital. Arden Barnes | UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 9, 2022) — It's no secret – Kentucky needs more nurses.

In December 2021, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency relating to the nursing shortage in Kentucky. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have been overworked and scarcely available in comparison to the rising number of patients in need. The Kentucky Nurses Association reports that even with 89,000 licensed nurses in the state, that number is still 12-20% short of the amount needed to care for patients here.

At the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, nurses are being prepared to promote the highest level of wellness. Nursing grad Kent Brouwer received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from UK in 2018 and just graduated with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) postgraduate certificate. He came to UK for nursing initially because of the high National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) pass rates, but stayed for the uniqueness of the program.

“The second-degree program was small and allowed for more interaction and face-to-face time among faculty, staff and students,” said Brouwer. “I quickly realized how the faculty here cared about the success of the entire student, both personally and professionally.”

BSN graduate Marquiana Porcena agrees. She calls attending the UK College of Nursing a “no-brainer.”

“I’ve had the privilege of witnessing nurses provide amazing care for my parents many times,” said Porcena. “Becoming a nurse is my way of paying them back, but also paying it forward.”

During their training, nurses are required to work in the hospital in clinical rotations. This is where they test the skills they learn in the classroom. They also get their first taste of working in a clinical environment, which presents its own challenges.

“Health care professionals are tired and working hard each and every day,” said Claire-Marie Hall, 2022 BSN graduate. “I hope I can make a positive difference in someone’s day by stepping up to help when I am there as a student.”

According to UK College of Nursing Dean Janie Heath, the nursing shortage is not new – it’s a problem that’s been brewing for over a decade. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue; now hospitals, assisted living facilities, clinics and schools are all running out of nurses. Of the nurses that remain, many are close to retirement age.

State leaders have been working to address the nursing shortage. In March of 2022, Senate Bill 10 made it through the Kentucky legislature. This bill aims to make it easier for nurses across the country to travel to Kentucky and provide aid.

Being in a hospital setting during this time has inspired some nurses to continue their own education or even help others with theirs.

“While not all my experiences working have been positive, it has made clear the importance of teaching the next generation of nurses,” said Brouwer. “The only way to improve the shortage is to continue educating and training nursing students.”

Ronald Duerr is graduating with his Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Health Care Systems Leadership. He received his two undergraduate degrees – a BSN and a Bachelor of Science in Biology – also from UK.

“The nursing workforce shortage confirmed my original desire of becoming a nursing leader,” said Duerr. “I want to help nurses love their jobs because we do the impossible every day. If I can be in a position to alleviate that burden, even if just a little, I will.”

The nursing workforce shortage is just the latest in the list of inconveniences nurses and health care professionals of all kinds are facing. This class of nursing graduates looks forward to aiding the nursing community and continuing to provide the highest level of care.

“I don’t know of a single unit that isn’t short-staffed,” said Duerr. “Despite that, the nurses at UK HealthCare continue to push on and provide exceptional care to every patient, every time.”


As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.