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July 15- Aug. 25, 2005
Vol. 35, Issue 13
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New nursing program

Karen Johns named head softball coach
An island reborn
Jefferson scholar program turns 25
Placemaking seminar helps foster vital communities
Artists, audiences collaborate in 'The Paper Sculpture Show'
Now funded: U.S.-Iceland exchange program


New nursing program
Southside and Southwest Virginia nurses and residents to benefit

Photo by Dory Hulse
State Sen. Frank Ruff, chairman of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, presented a check to U.Va. Nursing School Dean Jeanette Lancaster (center) and Nancy Langston, VCU Nursing School dean, at a press conference at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research on June 29.

Staff report

The University’s School of Nursing will participate in a new program to improve health care for the residents of Southside and Southwest Virginia, while also providing a career ladder to allow registered nurses in that region who can develop more specialized clinical skills, qualify as nurse managers and leaders, and become nursing faculty.

The new program, which is being funded by a Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission grant of $248,828, was announced at a press conference on June 29 at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. U.Va. and the Virginia Commonwealth University’s nursing schools will provide the program’s educational offerings.

State Sen. Frank Ruff, chairman of the Tobacco Commission’s education committee, was on hand to present the award. “The Virginia Tobacco Commission is committed to enhancing the educational opportunities in Southside and Southwest Virginia. This program will open doors for our citizens wishing to pursue a career in nursing,” he said. “Our communities need well-trained medical professionals, and this project is an excellent means of meeting that need.”

The program is especially significant given the twin challenges of an already severe national nursing shortage that is expected to reach critical proportions in the next few years and the growing demand for more highly trained nurses. It will support the region’s existing health care industry and allow adult learners to continue in their current employment while taking the courses. Stronger health care infrastructure plays a positive role in encouraging businesses, industry and individuals to remain in or relocate to the region.

“The program, supported by the Tobacco Commission, is significant in several ways,” said Jeanette Lancaster, U.Va. Nursing School dean. “Specifically, with VCU taking a weekend baccalaureate program for nurses to Danville and U.Va. providing master’s education in public health nursing and health systems management in a Web-based format to both Southside and Southwest Virginia, [the program] reflects an educational partnership designed to meet key needs for providing better health care. These two areas were chosen since they have been especially affected by the reduced tobacco production.”

“This is the type of program that warms my heart,” added Gene Block, U.Va. vice president and provost. “It is another demonstration of the capabilities of our universtities and their ability to coordinate effort in constructive ways.”

Working closely with community colleges, nursing diploma programs, and baccalaureate programs in the area, VCU will provide the next step up the career ladder. Students can attend classes on weekends for three semesters to move from their R.N. certification to a bachelor’s in science degree. Then nurses can enroll in U.Va.’s online nursing master’s programs in community/public health leadership and health systems management.

U.Va. anticipates six students enrolled in the master’s program this fall with a target of 10 for next year, said Doris Glick, associate nursing professor, who will oversee U.Va.’s involvement in the regional program. U.Va. is extending this master’s program to Southwest Virginia, where in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they educated over 100 master’s prepared nurses. The new Web-based program will make it possible for working nurses to complete their studies in a flexible schedule.

This outreach complements U.Va.’s vigorous nursing research program in rural healthcare, which includes a recently launched Rural Health Care Research Center and a study of Shortages of Health Professionals in Rural Areas, both funded by the National Institutes of Health.

VCU expects to enroll 10 students in the bachelor’s in science program this fall with a target of 20 students in the fall of 2006. The VCU outreach program is based on 15 years experience offering similar programs that have extended from Grundy to the Eastern Shore and from Northern Virginia to Emporia. Additionally, in the early years of nurse practitioner education, VCU brought that program on site in the Danville region. These programs offered by VCU have allowed hundreds of nurses from throughout Virginia to continue their education while remaining employed in their home communities.

Funds for the first year of the programs will be used to hire site coordinators in Southside and Southwest Virginia, cover faculty costs, distance learning technicians and equipment, travel for recruitment and instruction, and scholarships.

For information about this new program, contact Dr. Darnell Cockram, coordinator for Southside RN to BSN and MSN programs, at (434) 799-2120 or at cockramd@drhsi.org.


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