The Thompson Charitable Foundation of Knoxville, Tennessee, has awarded a $50,000 grant to Bluefield College for its Rural Healthcare Education Program.
The college began the development of it Rural Healthcare Education Program (RHEP) in the fall of 2009 shortly after received an $85,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission for the initiative.
As a part of BC’s inSpire degree-completion program, the RHEP is designed to meet the critical need that exists in southwest Virginia for healthcare related educational opportunities. Partnering with the region’s community colleges and healthcare providers, the program will offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing for students seeking to serve, and those already serving, in health-related fields within their communities.
The program, according to BC’s Ruth Blankenship, vice president for advancement, 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 and now the Thompson Charitable Foundation will allow the school to hire its first program director, design the initial curriculum, seek state and national certification, and develop critical partnerships with associate and diploma-registered nursing programs in southwest Virginia.
The Thompson Foundation was established in 1987 after the family sold its coal interests to Jewell Smokeless Coal Company in Grundy, Virginia. Since its inception, the charitable organization has funded primarily education, health, and human service initiatives in eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and southwest Virginia. The Foundation has established and still provides annual funding to several rural health clinics in southwest Virginia.