Virginia Tobacco Commission Awards $85,000 to Bluefield College

November 10, 2009 | RSS

Bluefield College recently received an $85,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission for the purpose of launching a new Rural Healthcare Education Program for southwest Virginia.


"This is an historical award for Bluefield College," said BC's Ruth Blankenship, vice president for advancement. "Not only is it the first time Bluefield College has received funding from the Tobacco Commission, but it also paves the way for Bluefield College to address the need for higher education opportunities in healthcare for the residents of southwest Virginia."


The Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999 using proceeds from the national tobacco settlement to promote economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities. To date, the commission has awarded more than $518 million in grants, and through one of its latest offerings, Bluefield College will develop a Rural Healthcare Education Program.


"This grant recognizes the critical need that exists in southwest Virginia for healthcare related educational opportunities," said Bluefield College President David Olive, "and Bluefield College is poised, as part of our mission, to meet this need and partner with the region's community colleges and healthcare providers to deliver a bachelor's degree in nursing for adults seeking to serve, and those already serving, in health-related fields within their communities."


Bluefield College will launch its Rural Healthcare Education initiative first through its Degree Completion Program, an accelerated higher education curriculum designed primarily for working adults. The school currently offers degree opportunities in management, criminal justice, and behavioral science through its Degree Completion Program, but now, with the start of its Rural Healthcare agenda, BC will add a fourth degree opportunity to its accelerated offerings, nursing.


"This is an opportunity to create a whole new accelerated degree completion program in nursing," said Blankenship. "The bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) will be part of our overall initiative to expand healthcare related programs in southwest Virginia -- programs that are unique for the fact that they focus on rural and Appalachian culture."


The BSN program, Blankenship noted, will address the shortage of registered nurses with four-year college degrees in southwest Virginia and create "a pathway for nursing for those who are place-bound by family and work commitments." The program, she added, will offer current hospital employees in rural southwest Virginia the opportunity to advance their education and skills while continuing to maintain employment.


"Degree programs like this are critical to the nurses and healthcare workers in southwest Virginia to be able to expand and acquire new capabilities required for success," Blankenship said. "Our nursing program will be a flexible, accessible program, taught in various communities across southwest Virginia in an accelerated learning format."


The grant from the Tobacco Commission will allow the school to hire its first program director for Rural Healthcare Education, who will be responsible for designing curriculum, spearheading state and national certification efforts, and continuing to develop critical partnerships with associate and diploma-registered nursing programs in southwest Virginia.


"We look forward to the day that we're able to provide rural Virginia with a critical mass of nursing and other healthcare professionals with secondary degrees," Blankenship added, "who are equipped to address with cultural competence the rural health needs of this region."


For more information about Bluefield College's Rural Healthcare Education Program and its Accelerated Degree Completion major in nursing, please e-mail