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Riverside College of Health Careers Marks a Milestone with Inaugural Class of RN-to-BSN Graduates

August 04, 2021
RCHC graduation

On Tuesday, August 3, Riverside’s School of Nursing graduated its first class of students with bachelor’s degrees.

The School of Nursing within Riverside College of Health Careers (RCHC), launched the Registered Nurse (RN)-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program in August 2020. The students earned their degrees in just three semesters following an online-only format that offers flexibility for working nurses.

“This has been an incredible experience,” said graduate Nathan Richards. “Thank you to Riverside College of Health Careers for putting together this fantastic program and giving me the honor and privilege of being a part of the first cohort.”

RCHC has graduated more than 7,948 nurses, radiologic and surgical technologists, physical therapist assistants and other allied health professionals since its inception 1915. Initially, the nursing school was an integral part of Newport News General and Non-Sectarian Hospital, which would later become Riverside Regional Medical Center.

The RN-to-BSN program that began last fall meets the increased demand in the evolving field of health care by offering the opportunity for registered nurses to achieve baccalaureate-level education.

“It was a natural evolution to offer the RN-to-BSN program ourselves rather than sending our students somewhere else to further their education,” said Robin Nelhuebel, Executive Director, RCHC. “This is a multi-decade, multi-people-involved vision, and we’re just so happy to see it come to fruition.”

The inaugural class of eight graduates will be honored in individual ceremonies at the College at 316 Main St., in Newport News starting at 3 p.m. Faculty will be in full academic regalia while graduates will wear cap and gown along with stoles designed specifically for the occasion. Each graduate may invite up to 10 family members with social distancing and masking protocols in place.

Nancy Littlefield, Riverside Health System’s Executive Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, will be in attendance, as will Wendy Unison-Pace, RN-to-BSN Program Director and RCHC Executive Director, Robin Nelhuebel. Debbie Sullivan-Yates, Dean of Nursing Education, will award the degrees. 

“The fact that the class completed all 38 of the required credits while working during the COVID-19 pandemic speaks to their resiliency,” Littlefield said, noting, “They are fantastic examples of what Riverside represents and we are so proud of their accomplishment.”

Riverside’s Professional Nursing Program transitioned their 100-year-old diploma program to an associate degree program in 2015 with the first class graduating a year later. The RN-to-BSN program reflects the growing demand for baccalaureate-level educated nurses to impact their community through leadership roles, inter-professional communication and collaboration. 

Practicum projects and a capstone course requires the students to engage with community members. Students assess for a specific need then design and conduct a lesson to address identified community health concerns.

“Our graduates have a better world view of health care as a whole,” Unison-Pace said. “They’re serving the community in many ways, and we are excited to see them graduate and advance their careers as nurses.”

Graduates are prepared to continue their education at the graduate level, and with their BSN, bed-side nurses are eligible for increased pay if they remain working within Riverside Health System. The College has established articulation agreements with Virginia Commonwealth University and Capella University to ease assess to master’s level programs.

Financial aid and scholarships make the RN-to-BSN program affordable.  College alumni and Riverside team members receive discounts, and the Health System offers a tuition assistance program for all employees. Applications are now being accepted for the August 2021 and January 2022 cohorts. Full-time and part-time options are available for the 100% online program. To learn more about this program, please visit  www.riverside.edu.


About Riverside College of Health Careers
Riverside College of Health Careers (RCHC) is accredited by Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and certified to operate in VA by State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
(SCHEV). Riverside College of Health Careers evolved from a group of individual educational programs into a diverse yet unified college that educates nurses and other allied health professionals. The educational programs include: Professional Nursing (1916), Practical Nursing (1961), Radiologic Technology (1964), Surgical Technology (1969), Physical Therapist Assistant (2012), Nurse Aide (2017) and RN-to-BSN Program (2020). The campus of RCHC is approximately three miles from Riverside Regional Medical Center (RRMC) which serves as the College’s main clinical practice facility. RCHC has nearly 70 faculty and staff team members and an average annual student enrollment of over 350 men and women. Learn more about the college by visiting www.riverside.edu