LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) – A sea of white scrubs filled the room as more than 200 nursing students graduated from Molloy University on Tuesday.

They’ve spent much of their college careers studying to become nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a great four years, very tough four years,” Emily Heinrich, a graduate, said.  

“I feel relieved,” Temitope Adeniji, another graduate, said. “Relieved and relaxed that I get to finish.”

“I am happy I am done,” Shannon David added.

They’ll be filling an enormous void as a nursing shortage has threatened hospitals and medical facilities across the country.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing found about 100,000 nurses left the workforce during the pandemic and that by 2027, almost 900,000 intend to leave.

James Lentini is the president of Molloy University.

“We can’t get enough nurses in the workforce right now, but we also can’t get enough really great nurses and Molloy trains really get nurses,” Lentini said.

The university hosted the traditional pinning ceremony, which acknowledges the achievement of the students.

“It’s also a welcome from their new colleagues, their faculty, into the profession,” said Marcia Gardner, dean of The Barbara H. Hagan School of Nursing & Health Sciences.

Pinning ceremonies have taken place for hundreds of years and the pins represent the qualities of the university, the program, and nursing itself – a career that has proved to be challenging but fulfilling.

“It was definitely challenging to adjust to and just the fear of being in the hospital in the height of the pandemic, but it also made me excited that I was going to be the person that somebody was going to depend on in that scary time,” David added.

“If anything, it made me want to do it more because it made me realize how much we’re needed and how we’re important,” Heinrich said.

The graduates don’t know which facility or hospital they’ll be working in yet. In about two months, they’ll take their licensing exam, and once they pass, they’ll become registered nurses.