VHCC Dedicates BRMC Skills Lab
Dedication Celebrates Investment in Education
ABINGDON, Va. – Virginia Highlands Community College officially dedicated the Bristol Regional Medical Center Nursing Skills Lab on campus Wednesday, celebrating an investment in education that is addressing the region’s nursing shortage.
VHCC President Gene C. Couch Jr. was joined by Bristol Regional President Greg Neal and other leaders as he unveiled the sign that bears the hospital’s name. He noted it represents a partnership that paved the way for 20 additional students to begin the nursing program at VHCC this fall. Bristol Regional made it possible for the college to increase enrollment and maintain quality instruction by offering financial support to expand faculty and providing hands-on clinical instruction within the hospital, he said.
“Our unwavering commitment to quality instruction has earned our nursing program an excellent reputation throughout the years and created a high demand for our graduates,” Dr. Couch said. “As we began looking for ways to meet the needs of the region’s health care providers, we quickly realized that we couldn’t accept additional students without first adding faculty. We’re grateful that Bristol Regional Medical Center stepped up to the plate, addressing a critical need in our community by investing in nursing education.”
Details of the partnership were announced last spring and enabled VHCC to increase enrollment in its nursing program for the fall semester from 50 to 70 students. Classes began Aug. 23.
“We have enjoyed a longtime connection with Virginia Highlands Community College, and the naming of this lab for our hospital is a wonderful symbol of our expanded relationship,” Neal said. “Bristol Regional has not been immune from the national challenge of having a sufficient number of nurses on staff, and we are working diligently to increase that pipeline. Having a tremendous partner in Virginia Highlands Community College will help us meet that need and position us to continue delivering superior health care with compassion.”
Located within the Nursing Education Building on the VHCC campus, the newly named lab is used extensively by first-year nursing students to learn basic patient care and the proper steps required to assess patient health. Additional faculty will allow VHCC to maintain small class sizes while accepting additional nursing students.
As students progress through the program, Bristol Regional will again support the additional students by providing qualified nursing instructors to oversee hands-on clinical education within the hospital. These direct patient care experiences are essential to the development of graduates who can think critically and provide safe and effective nursing care, said Dr. Kathy Mitchell, dean of nursing and allied health at VHCC.
She said Bristol Regional has been a clinical training site for VHCC nursing students since 1984.
“One of our greatest challenges is arranging the 500 hours of supervised clinical instruction that is required by the Virginia Board of Nursing for all nursing students,” Dr. Mitchell said. “By providing both space and qualified instructors within the hospital, Bristol Regional has helped us overcome a major obstacle and allowed us to welcome additional students into the program.”
The agreement also includes a provision that gives students who complete clinical training at Bristol Regional priority consideration for jobs within the hospital and other Wellmont Health System facilities.
“It’s exciting to grow our partnership and have an important role in training the next generation of nurses,” said Tim Anderson, Bristol Regional’s vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. “This agreement will give students access to outstanding education and training opportunities in a clinical setting that delivers care for complex medical conditions. These students will be well prepared to enter the workforce with skills that will measurably improve people’s lives.”
The nursing program at Virginia Highlands was established in 1972 and is one of three partners in the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program. Graduates of the two-year program are awarded an associate of applied science degree in nursing and are eligible to take the national licensure exam needed to work as a registered nurse.
About 1,600 students have earned nursing degrees from VHCC over the past four decades. An estimated 80 percent have remained in the region. Many have continued their education and are currently working as nurse practitioners, nurse managers, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists.
Wellmont has seven hospitals and more than 100 clinics and outpatient centers, as well as multiple other medical facilities throughout the region. It employs about 2,200 licensed registered nurses who provide professional care in a variety of settings. About 600 of them are employed at Bristol Regional.
For additional information about the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program at Virginia Highlands Community College, please visit www.vhcc.edu/VATNP. To learn more about nursing opportunities and the strength of Wellmont’s program, please visit www.wellmontnurses.org.