It’s a gift that will keep on giving.
Earlier this week, Sentara’s RMH Foundation gifted $100,000 to Blue Ridge Community College for use in healthcare education at the school.
The two institutions are celebrating the 30th year of their partnership, which began back in 1991 to promote stronger nursing education in the Shenandoah Valley.
“The RMH Foundation is the fundraising arm for Sentara RMH Medical Center, but we serve to connect resources in the community,” said Cory Davies, the foundation’s executive director. “We help purchase equipment, pay for technology, help build buildings, and support programs in education.”
For Amy Kiger, the executive director of the BRCC Educational Foundation, the gift from the RMH Foundation marks yet another historic chapter between the college and their friends at Sentara.
“They have been one of our most generous and consistent donors over the course of the history of our foundation,” Kiger said. “They have been a supporter of our nursing program for many, many years, but over the years, their support has also transitioned as our needs have transitioned.”
Kiger said thanks to the foundation, Blue Ridge’s healthcare and nursing education has been able to expand. Opportunities pursing an associate degree at the school’s nursing program have grown thanks to the support between the two institutions.
It’s also helped grow the college’s emergency medical services program over the years, which educates students looking to develop careers as EMTs, advanced EMTs and paramedics.
“All of us, even though we don’t necessarily want to go to the hospital [or] call an ambulance with an EMT on it, we certainly want to be sure those things are here and are strong when we need them,” Kiger said. “When you need to go to the hospital, you want to know that you’re being cared for by people who have had top-notch training on state-of-the-art equipment and that they are ready to give you the best care you need.”
New top-notch equipment, such as abdominal assessment mannequins, are something that Jane Burgess, an assistant professor of nursing at Blue Ridge, is excited for students to have access to moving forward.
Burgess, also a nurse with nearly 40 years of experience, knows just how valuable this equipment can be for her students and how much greater their education and training can become because of it.
“They are the benefactors because of what we as faculty can now do to help better their education,” Burgess said. “For example, one of the mannequins we’d like to purchase is how you assess the abdomen. That’s hard to teach a student, but with these mannequins now, we can put [in] nodules and lumps and do things to make it more realistic for what’s normal and what’s abnormal. That teaches the student better and it prepares them to use these skills when they’re caring for patients in health care.”
Both Burgess and Kiger are excited for the benefits that Blue Ridge students will receive from the foundation’s gift.
However, both women acknowledged the people who will benefit the greatest from the $100,000 investment are the residents of the Shenandoah Valley and their health.
“While the money came to Blue Ridge Community College, the gift and the support is really for the whole community,” Kiger said. “We are turning out the nurses that are going to be working at Sentara RMH, Augusta Health, the retirement communities and all [of] the other health care providers in this community. So many of our students stay here.”
As a professor, Burgess couldn’t agree more.
“This money not only benefits the student, it [benefits] the public,” Burgess said. “This is a gift that will keep on giving. The things we buy will wear out eventually, but for years we’ll be using this to educate our nurses, which benefits the public not only now but for years to come. Our goal is to train exceptional nurses and we want to continue that.”
Kiger further explained the gift from the RMH Foundation, in a way, came in three parts.
Support for the nursing program and the emergency medical services program are there, but Kiger said one incredible aspect of the investment into the school is a portion of it is somewhat unrestricted within healthcare education at Blue Ridge.
This gives the school flexibility to purchase new equipment, such as the previously mentioned mannequins, to start a new health care program at the college, or just approach new projects in health care moving forward.
“It’s a testament to the trust and the relationship between these institutions,” Kiger said. “They’ve given us some flexibility to really address community needs.”
Davies couldn’t agree more, expressing excitement for both the school and the foundation moving forward.
He’s ready to see what the next 30 years has in store for the two institutions.
“There [are] good things to come,” Davies said. “The gratitude goes both ways. Blue Ridge often expresses their gratitude towards the hospital, but we’re equally grateful for the wonderful work that they do and that they’re supplying a highly skilled and highly competent workforce that helps us deliver the care that our community needs. We’re lucky to have them.”