BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After Gov. Hogan put the call out to nurses and nursing schools that the state needs more personnel on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of nursing students decided to graduate early and join in the fight.

Eager nurses graduated early on Thursday and will thrust toward the frontlines of the pandemic.

Lucas Boulter is a graduate of 2020’s December Class at the University of Maryland Medical System School of Nursing.

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He has been working as a Nursing Assistant in the Medical ICU and plans to continue that work once he passes his boards.

“I’m actually more excited than ever,” he said. “I feel like the stakes are higher. That might deter some people, but I like the challenge it poses.”

Classmate Sanju Garung will be working one floor below in the Cardiac Surgery ICU.

“I will start the first week of January because of the early exit program,” Garung said. “It allows me to start early.”

Boulter, Garung, and 260 of their classmates graduated virtually during a ceremony unlike most.

“I think it’s safe to say 2020 was unlike anything we could have expected,” graduate Lauren Russell said.

It’s during a time when their help is desperately needed.

“Nursing doesn’t pick and choose its readiness, but its willingness to respond,” another graduate told WJZ.

“Congratulations, Class of 2020,” Russell said. “I can’t wait to see what we accomplish.”

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Rachael Cardin