Delivered by David Anderson, chair of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, to Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive, the county gift is designed to provide scholarships to students seeking to enroll in the new RN-to-BSN degree completion program.
“This gift is a true indication that our community recognizes the value of this degree program,” said Dr. Olive, “and the critical need we have to equip and prepare more healthcare professionals to meet the needs of our community.”
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. With seed gifts from the Virginia Tobacco Commission and the Thompson Foundation, 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.
“Having a nursing program at Bluefield College will not only assist the college in its enrollment efforts, but also allow the college to give back to the community and the region through rural healthcare education,” said Dr. Lewis. “There is a great need for health care personnel in our region and across the United States and for nurses who can provide hands-on care. We want to help meet that need.”
Just recently accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the RN-to-BSN program will be delivered primarily online 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.
The program, according to Ruth Blankenship, BC’s vice president for advancement, will not only address the shortage of registered nurses with four-year college degrees, but also offer current hospital employees in rural southwest Virginia the opportunity to advance while maintaining employment.
“Degree programs like this are critical to the nurses and healthcare workers of southwest Virginia,” said Blankenship, “because they’re flexible and accessible and taught in various communities across southwest Virginia in an accelerated format.”
While the college has received gifts for the development of the program, the Tazewell County contribution is the first to be earmarked specifically for student scholarships.
“Bluefield College is an integral part of our community,” said Anderson about the county’s support of the program, “and it’s nice to be able to support something that will benefit the community. These funds will provide scholarships for our local citizens and further develop the college’s new nursing program. You can never go wrong with an investment in education.”
Bluefield College hopes to launch its first nursing classes in January of 2012 and is excited about the fact that scholarship dollars from Tazewell County will help reach that goal.
“We’re always looking for additional ways to provide scholarships and to develop and support our programs,” said Dr. Lewis. “This gift from the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors will do just that — it will provide vital funding for scholarships for our nursing students.”