Bluefield, VA – Over the course of the pandemic, the need for healthcare workers has increased. As a response, Bluefield University announced during spring 2021 a new Bachelor of Science in nursing degree program to meet the growing demand for skilled nurses. The four-year nursing degree prepares students for jobs as registered nurses and began in the fall 2021 semester.
“Nursing is a life-long rewarding career that will be full of exciting and meaningful experiences,” said Dr. Jessica Sharp, professor and dean of the Bluefield University School of Nursing. “A career where you make a difference in the lives of those you encounter and care for. The commitment to a mission of compassionate care and serving those in need creates a family-oriented work environment where we care for one another.”
Created in 2010, BU’s School of Nursing is designed to meet the critical demand for healthcare workers, but in the region and throughout the country. In 2011, the BU School of Nursing developed RN-BSN partnerships with regional community colleges to make the program more accessible to students seeking to serve or those already serving in health-related fields within their communities.
Shortly after joining BU in 2014, Dr. Sharp developed several master’s degree programs in nursing, which offer students the opportunity to concentrate in a family nurse practitioner program or an education/leadership program. Under Dr. Sharp’s leadership, the School of Nursing added a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificate and a master’s degree in psychiatric mental health.
“Our nursing faculty are outstanding,” expressed Dr. Sharp. “All of our faculty are in practice and keep up with current healthcare trends.”
The School of Nursing is housed in the new $2.7 million third floor addition of the Science Center. The addition, completed in fall 2019, was in response to the institution’s growing number of academic offerings in health sciences. The addition features a lyceum, stimulation labs, classrooms, and office space.
“The mission of nursing and the College fit perfectly together with the nursing program,” shared Dr. Sharp. “Nurses are servant leaders, and nursing is not just a job for me. It is my passion.”
Industry and U.S. labor statistics show the nursing field remains one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Registered nursing is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016-26 employment projections, which projected the field to grow by more than 438,000 jobs over that 10-year period.
In March 2019, Bluefield University joined the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) family of schools. Through this partnership, Bluefield University will have access to the VCOM network of hospitals and partners. Nursing students will have access to VCOM facilities and medical mission trip opportunities. VCOM was founded by Mr. John Rocovich alongside his wife, Dr. Sue Ellen Rocovich, and others with the intent to bring the finest medical care and medical education to the southwest and southside regions of Virginia upon reviewing reports and statistics on the coming shortages in primary care in the region.
“Our students are able to go further in their student experience through our partnership with VCOM and the Appalachian School of Pharmacy,” said Dr. Sharp. “This family of schools provides exciting opportunities for advancing in their education and career fields.”
Our four-year seated nursing program has been a strategic initiative planned for over the past five years,” said Dr. Marshall Flowers, Bluefield University provost. “With the completion of the new School of Nursing classrooms and simulation labs, the nursing program is ready to serve cohorts of nursing students and meet the growing need for nurses across the Appalachian region.”
Recent nursing graduate Wesley Stickley was inspired by his grandmother to become a nurse. Born and raised in Marion, Virginia, Stickley graduated from Marion Senior High School in 2005. He then went on to graduate from Virginia Highlands Community College in 2016 and received his Bachelor of Science in nursing from Bluefield University in 2019. Stickley continued his education at BU and graduated with a Master of Science in nursing with a focus of family nurse practitioner this past May.
“I’m extremely grateful for my education from Bluefield University. The classes were small, but the education was a large impact,” shared Stickley. “The instructors truly care about the information that you receive to transition yourself into the person you hope to become.”
Stickley currently serves as a medical emergency nurse in the cardiovascular intensive care unit and associate clinical leader at Bristol Regional Medical Center. Since graduating and passing his boards, he has now accepted a position in Nephrology where he plans to start this fall.
“The largest impact from Bluefield is knowing that my education has not stopped. The world of medicine is ever changing and remains a learning environment,” said Stickley. “Bluefield incorporates kindness and respect for the field while maintaining the modesty one should have when caring for people.”
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