KITCHENER -- As national nurses’ weeks comes to an end, students at Conestoga College who have working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving some recognition.

Brittany Bates is graduating from the nursing program at the school this year and had placements helping with COVID-19 contact tracing and in the ICU at Grand River Hospital.

“They were certainly two very different but very important sides of the fight against COVID-19 in our region,” she said. I’ve always had a passion for helping others and learning about our healthcare system.

“This is what we signed up for, this is what we’re ready to do. We’ve all worked so hard these past four years to obtain this degree.”

John Thang is in his second year of nursing at Conestoga College and says being a student during a pandemic has pushed him closer to nursing as a profession.

“It makes you realize the extent of what nurses do and, at times, the limitations of what they’re actually working with in terms of the resources that are available to them,” he said.

Conestoga College has seen more 637 applications for 80 spots in their nursing school this year, which marks an increase of almost 40 per cent compared to last year.

Last week, the province announced a $35 million investment in nursing education programs, which they say will add 2,000 nurses to the healthcare system.

“Nurses are needed, period,” said Susanne Bush of Conestoga’s school of health and life sciences. “Are they needed more? Probably, especially given that we need to make sure we are mentally and physically health ourselves.”

Bates echoes this statement as a lesson she learned during her placement.

“Many of my peers are ready and very eager to enter the workforce right away and join the fight against COVID-19,” she said. “To provide that relief for current nurses that have undergone such significant stress related to the pandemic.”