Celebrating 35 Years of RMG: An Interview with Terry Thompson, ACNP, FHM

June 18, 2024
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Twenty-six years ago, Terry Thompson became one of the earliest Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) with Riverside when she joined a Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine practice then based at Riverside Regional Medical Center (RRMC).

In 2003, Thompson switched positions to work as the first Nurse Practitioner (NP) with Riverside Medical Group’s Hospital Medicine program at RRMC. She remembers just one other APP rounding regularly there at the time – outside of the Emergency Department – when physicians were still adjusting to having NPs and Physician Assistants (PAs) on their teams.

“Early on in that adventure, our medical colleagues weren’t quite sure what to do with us,” Thompson recalled. “They were trying to determine how to incorporate our skillset and best utilize us to help meet patients’ needs. That conversation is still continuing today, but things have changed so much.”

As Riverside Medical Group (RMG) celebrates its 35th anniversary, the practice has about 270 APPs – a number that will only grow in the future. PAs, NPs and Nurse Midwives are now critical components of every service line in Riverside’s hospitals and at its outpatient centers.

Thompson, Associate Director of Advanced Practice Providers and Director of RMG Fellowships for the past six years, has witnessed that transformation from the beginning. In fact, she has been with Riverside since before the founding of RMG: she began as a Registered Nurse (RN) in a Hemodialysis unit at RRMC in 1983, 41 years ago.

As an RN, APP and Administrator, Thompson’s many contributions have included caring for a wide variety of acute and critical care patients, helping develop the first cardiac stent program at RRMC, coordinating pulmonology research trials and serving on Riverside’s APP committee since its launch in 2011. That committee has grown from a dozen members to 25.

As the country grapples with a looming shortage of physicians and an aging population, Thompson’s focus is on maximizing the utilization of APPs, recruiting qualified providers and providing mentorship and continuing education opportunities to support them.

Thompson’s position also is split so that she can continue her 21-year clinical career in Hospital Medicine alongside her administrative responsibilities.

“What has transformed is the climate of acceptance of APPs and the willingness to integrate other care partner types into patient care,” she noted. “The challenge moving forward is how to partner the right number and type of APPs with our physician colleagues, and how to give our APPs the freedom and autonomy to work to the very top of their licenses.”

Thompson has loved all of her years at Riverside, which have fulfilled her childhood dream of a career in medicine. Her father was a paramedic in Danville, Va., and she went on calls with him from around age 10 through her college years.

“I’d go to sleep with my clothes and shoes laid out right beside my bed, in case we had to leave right away,” she said. “I watched my dad start IVs, get people out of wrecked cars and bandage wounds. I saw how much he helped people, and I was fascinated by everything.”

After earning a Nursing degree from Radford University, Thompson spent two years as a nurse at Radford Community Hospital – now owned by Carilion Clinic – before her husband’s job with NASA brought them to Hampton Roads.

Thompson spent about a year in RRMC’s Hemodialysis unit before transferring to the Cardiothoracic Surgery unit; she later taught Critical Care through staff development and served as Nurse Manager of the Coronary Care unit.

Soon after Virginia Commonwealth University founded an Acute Care NP certification program, Thompson enrolled. She graduated in 1998.

“I was always drawn to high-adrenaline situations, so I knew this was the right step for me,” she explained. “As a nurse, I also love being able to spend more time with patients and their families as long as they need care.”

A married mother of two grown daughters, one a fellow critical care nurse and the other in marketing, Thompson unwinds by doing watersports and stained-glass artwork. She is quick to credit Riverside for allowing her career to grow in many different directions, and for its willingness to listen to – and try out – new ideas from team members.

“You don’t see that commitment in all health systems, so I’ve never taken it for granted,” she said. “I’m Riverside through-and-through. I believe in our mission, and I would never work anywhere else.”