A woman wearing a sports coat and blouse smiling.
Terrica Lacey's nursing career has included positions in areas such as the ICU, maternity care, case management, hospice and the health plan sector. (Contributed photo)

Class of 2022: With new master’s degree, Terrica Lacey looks to make an impact in health care leadership

Lacey, who has been a nurse for more than two decades, has seemed destined for the field since she was a child.

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Terrica Lacey always knew that she wanted to be a nurse. Her grandmother was in her 40s when she gave birth to Lacey’s mother. As a result, her grandmother was older when Lacey was born and was already experiencing health problems. As a young girl, Lacey often assisted her grandmother with her medical care. She would help her grandmother sort her pills and manage her diabetes. Her grandmother often called Lacey her “little nurse.”

“Those experiences inspired me to go into health care,” Lacey said.

Lacey, originally from Mississippi, earned an undergraduate degree in nursing from Norfolk State University. Throughout her nursing career, she has held a variety of positions.

“By being a nurse for 21 years, I have had the blessing to explore a lot of different areas, but the longest area that I have been working in is the ICU,” Lacey said. “I have also had experience with maternity care, case management, hospice, and most recently working in the health plan sector.”

A few years ago, Lacey and her family began having conversations about her returning to school and getting a master’s degree. Her husband has retired from the Navy, and her children are older. Lacey had the flexibility to spend evenings in class or studying.

“We decided as a family that we would survive with me going to school,” Lacey said. “They have been very supportive.”

After a 20-year absence from higher education, Lacey returned to school and completed her master’s degree in nursing with a concentration in nursing leadership and organizational science at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing.

Lacey transitioned into a nursing administrative role at her job last year. She works as a clinical implementation manager and wants to take on more leadership responsibility in the future. Lacey believes she can have more of an impact in the health care industry as an administrator and recognized she would get a quality education through VCU, as several friends had been through the program.

“I knew the program would be rigorous, but I also knew it would be worth it,” Lacey said.

She entered the nursing program in August of 2020. Normally the program is virtual with some on-campus requirements, but due to the COVID pandemic, her program was 100% virtual. Lacey attended school part-time so she could continue with her full-time job. The program has taken her two and a half years to complete.

“The biggest thing that I had to prepare for was work-life balance,” Lacey said.

Lacey enjoyed the program even in a fully remote format. She was used to Zoom calls through work and uses technology a lot. Lacey had nothing but positive words for the program and the skills she learned through VCU.

“I am very relieved that I finished the program at VCU,” Lacey said. “I am happy that I chose that program. I have definitely been challenged and have transformed myself with the knowledge that I gained.”

Lacey knows that she can be a positive asset in new ways with the skills and knowledge she has gained at VCU.

“Nursing is such a diverse field,” Lacey said. “There are so many different things you can do. I want to continue advancing in leadership roles and impact the realm of health care utilizing data science, health science and a transformative leadership style.”