On the site of the former Pocahontas High School — the hub of the rural community until closed in 2008 — leaders from the college and the hospital signed an agreement to create a health care clinic in the old high school that will not only improve access to medical care for local residents, but also provide hands-on experience for students in BC’s new nursing program.
“We appreciate everyone’s presence here today for this historic moment,” said BC president Dr. David Olive to a room full of interested local residents, Tazewell County administrators, BC and CVMC leaders, and members of the media. “We’re thankful to them for looking at the opportunity here in this community and the needs that exist and for their willingness to step forward and be good community partners by investing the personnel and resources necessary to make this clinic a reality.”
Thanks to the generosity of the Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Bluefield College gained access to use the former Pocahontas High School shortly after its closure to help launch its new football program. Determined to do more with the facility and to give back to the community, the college pledged to use the building for projects that would not only benefit BC, but also the residents of Pocahontas.
“This dream started several years ago,” said Dr. Olive about the vision to revive the Pocahontas community through new use of the old high school, “thanks to the foresight of Doyle Rasnick, Curtis Gillespie and other members of the Tazewell County IDA.”
The development of the rural health care clinic will begin first with renovations to convert the administrative section of the old high school into a clinic setting. At the same time, the hospital will begin recruiting and identifying a primary care physician to staff the clinic. The plan is to start providing care on a part-time basis by the summer of 2012 and full time, as demand necessitates, by the fall of that year.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work with Bluefield College,” said David Darden, chief executive officer of Clinch Valley Medical Center, “to bring medical services to an area that has not had them and to provide better rural health care to the people of this community.”
While the principal purpose of the clinic will be to provide primary care, specialists from the hospital may offer services from time to time, Darden said. In addition to providing the space for the clinic, the college’s role will be to provide health care assistance through students in its new nursing program, set to launch in January 2012.
“As our new nursing program develops,” said Dr. Olive, “this clinic will become a site for clinical training, a place where our students can practice their skills.”
Bluefield College announced the creation of its new nursing program in the fall of 2010 to meet a critical need in southwest Virginia for baccalaureate nursing education. Soon after, the school developed partnerships with regional community colleges to make the program more accessible and hired Tazewell, Virginia, native Dr. Carolyn Keen Lewis, a nurse with more than 20 years of experience in health care, to direct the RN-to-BSN program. Currently under evaluation for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the RN-to-BSN degree will be delivered through BC’s inSPIRE degree-completion program, a convenient, accelerated degree-completion program designed to allow a working adult with prior college credit the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in as little as 13 months.
“It made a lot of sense to establish a presence here in Pocahontas to augment the clinical teaching program at Bluefield College, so that its nursing students can get the hands-on experience they need,” said Darden. “All the parties win. It’s just a win-win-win situation for the community, the hospital and the college.”