CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The nursing shortage grew out of this pandemic, leaving many hospitals and nursing homes short-staffed.

For example, Baystate Health said it is hiring a hundred new employees each week. So the big question, how do we fill those gaps?

Elms College is taking its own approach, hosting the first ever Health Care Organization Forum, connecting the more than 80 graduating nursing students with local healthcare facilities.

“I’m hoping that I can rise to the occasion and that we all can learn from the people who are still there and that the level of healthcare remain the same or rises,” said Kyle Hutson, a senior.

While it opens the field for these students as they become registered nurses, senior Lauren Bava said it’s tough so many people had to leave the industry.

“It’s kind of bittersweet in a way,” she told 22News. “We’re coming, we’re able to help, we are replacing nurses but it’s not necessarily the way to do it.”

Students got to meet with different hospitals but many of them come with experience already, something they learned when they were on the front lines of this pandemic.

“I work on the critical care floor. So it just made me even more excited about the habit of becoming an actual registered nurse so I’m very excited for this,” said Hannah Simons.

Kathleen Pont is the Director of Accelerated and Traditional Nursing Students at Elms College. She said this graduating class is dedicated.

“They did not let COVID slow them down,” Pont told 22News. “So I think they are the true heart of nursing because it just exemplified the best that we have to offer.”

Elms College has about 300 students in its nursing program.