HOUSTON - For Bhargav Dave of Houston becoming a nurse is answering a calling to serve.
"I think our healthcare system, our country, our fellow citizens need us," he told FOX 26.
He also sees it as a way to take on the baton and thank those who have sustained the greatest weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I hold them to very high regard because they are selfless," Dave added.
Dave is part of the first class of graduates from the accelerated nursing program at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The program was launched in 2020 as a response to the nursing shortage compounded by the pandemic.
The Texas Nurses Association says burnout from COVID-19 is pushing nurses out of the field particularly those who work bedside.
"Just a rough estimate anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 nurses short right now and that could double within the next few years if they keep leaving the field like they are," said Tammy Eades, President, Texas Nurses Association.
Dave feels he understands the battle he is up against.
"I know at least five nurses that quit working as a nurse," he said. He also says he knows three who have died after getting infected with COVID-19 at work.
Dave admits completing a nursing degree in a year has been hard. He continued working full-time as a physical therapist at his own outpatient clinic in Dickinson and part-time at Memorial Hermann.
"At 2 a.m. when I wake up, having an exam at 7 a.m., and I'm like why am I doing this right now?" he recalled. "Like what's wrong with me? You live a comfortable life, just live that. Why do I do this? What's the point? And then I'm like alright, just remember why you started."
Dave is also a father and husband. He says it is his family who keeps him motivated.
"My daughter and my wife - they are my inspiration for me to do this," he concluded.
Dave says he has already accepted a job within the ER of a local hospital. He plans to work as a nurse at least until the pandemic is over.
"I'm not saying I did the best, I owe myself that I did my best," he said.