Bristol Regional, Virginia Highlands Collaborate to Increase Number of Nurses in the Area

May 23, 2017 | Bristol

Addressing one of the more important health care needs in the area, Bristol Regional Medical Center and Virginia Highlands Community College have reached an agreement to increase the number of available nurses.

Leaders of the two organizations signed the document at Bristol Regional Tuesday, May 23, which will allow the college to admit 20 additional nursing students each academic year. The agreement becomes effective starting with the 2017-2018 academic year.

Greg Neal, Bristol Regional’s president, said this arrangement is another example of Wellmont Health System’s relentless commitment to broaden the base of students pursuing a nursing career.

“This impressive development for the community and our patients will contribute greatly to our delivery of superior health care with compassion,” Neal said. “The challenge of finding a sufficient supply of nurses is a nationwide topic, and we have engaged in many innovative approaches that are starting to bear fruit. But we still have additional work ahead and are thrilled to have a like-minded higher education institution in Virginia Highlands that is just as focused on educating more nurses to meet patients’ needs.”

Dr. Gene C. Couch Jr., Virginia Highlands’ president, said he is enthused the college will help grow the nursing profession.

“We are delighted to partner with Bristol Regional Medical Center to enhance nursing education and, ultimately, health care in our region,” Dr. Couch said. “Hands-on instruction in a clinical setting is an important component of our program, and we’re excited to work with Bristol Regional to provide the education our students need to become exceptional nurses.”

To accomplish the goal of increasing the nursing staff, Virginia Highlands will provide faculty for all curriculum instruction, and Bristol Regional will be responsible for much of the clinical instruction. Wellmont will fund another part-time faculty member at Virginia Highlands who will help with skills and assessment courses and assist in the simulation lab housed at the college.

Wellmont will give Virginia Highlands students who participate in this program priority consideration for nurse technician jobs at its facilities. In addition, students who seek nursing positions at various Wellmont hospitals and clinics will receive the same level of attention from the health system.

The Virginia Highlands nursing program has provided nursing education for more than four decades and is one of three partners in the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program. Since its inception, the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program has produced about 4,500 graduates, and about 1,600 of them were enrolled at Virginia Highlands.

An estimated 80 percent of the program’s graduates remain in the region. Many have continued their education and are now serving the region as nurse practitioners, nurse managers, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists.

“This partnership will provide the exceptional learning experiences necessary to prepare nurses for the complex healthcare needs of our community,” said Dr. Kathy Mitchell, Virginia Highlands’ dean of nursing and allied health. “Virginia Highlands will increase the number of enrollment opportunities in the nursing program. This will lead to more graduates with unlimited opportunities for employment.”

Bristol Regional has provided clinical training for Virginia Highlands’ nursing program since 1984.

Those who graduate from the program and join Wellmont become part of a vast network of nursing professionals who provide care in many settings – from clinical offices to specialized hospital units. Wellmont employs about 2,200 licensed registered nurses, more than 600 of whom serve at Bristol Regional.

Nurses have partnered with physicians and other medical professionals throughout the health system to repeatedly attain high grades and honors from a host of highly respected national organizations. And as valued members of the organization, nurses have an opportunity to enhance best practices, pursue professional development opportunities and build on the exceptional caliber of care that pervades Wellmont.

Tim Anderson, Bristol Regional’s vice president of patient care services, said nurses who have earned their degree from the college and subsequently worked for the hospital and other Wellmont facilities have been assets in creating an environment of care rooted in excellence.

“We have been impressed with the quality of the graduates from the Virginia Highlands program and are pleased to work with the college on this newest initiative,” Anderson said. “Nursing is an honorable calling and a way to profoundly influence people’s lives, and these professionals at Bristol Regional and other Wellmont facilities have performed a tremendous service to the community. Working with Virginia Highlands, we will make further inroads in building our nursing staff and improving patients’ health and well-being.”

Anderson received his associate’s degree in nursing from Virginia Highlands and was recently honored by the college with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

For more information about the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program at Virginia Highlands, please visit To learn about nursing opportunities and the strength of Wellmont’s program, please visit