Nursing grad, who went from community college to VCU, now helps students on a similar path

Tracye Proffitt stands in a building hallway.
VCU School of Nursing clinical assistant professor Tracye Proffitt graduated from Rappahannock Community College as a registered nurse. Now she helps students from community colleges, including Rappahannock, continue their education at VCU School of Nursing as coordinator of the RN to B.S. program. (Photo by Angela Flagg, School of Nursing)

You could say that VCU School of Nursing alumna Tracye Proffitt has come full circle in her new job as coordinator of the school’s RN to B.S. program.

A graduate of Rappahannock Community College who began her career as a registered nurse, she’s the perfect example of how the RN to B.S. program works — and how it works even better now for students at Rappahannock and Southside Virginia Community College because of a recent concurrent enrollment agreement that paves a faster, more efficient path to a bachelor’s degree.

The first cohort of 13 students enrolled in August at Virginia Commonwealth University while simultaneously completing their final year of community college.

Proffitt, a clinical assistant professor at the School of Nursing, said one advantage of the enrollment partnership is that students can plan their paths from the start.

“They won’t have to stop and put their educations on the back burner to start nursing. Instead, they can carry the momentum with them,” she said. “A lot of community colleges have second-career students, but I think this partnership also has great potential for high school students who wish to pursue nursing as well.”

After Proffitt graduated from Rappahannock Community College and her high school sweetheart graduated from Germanna Community College, also as an RN, the two married. To secure hospital jobs, they moved from Fredericksburg to the Richmond area, where she worked for VCU Health System for two years while completing B.S. prerequisites.

“I had a really good experience during my nursing student clinical at VCU Health, which led me to work there … and then to attend the RN to B.S. program at VCU because of its reputation for high-quality education,” she said.

A lot of community colleges have second-career students, but I think this partnership also has great potential for high school students who wish to pursue nursing as well.

George Proffitt Jr. joined his wife in the RN to B.S. program. Studying and working at VCU, she said, “We had a greater appreciation for what we could do as nurses and how we could advance in the profession.”

The couple went on to earn their master’s degrees. He is now vice president and partner with Colonial Heights Medical Center and Hopewell Medical Center. And she — in addition to teaching at the School of Nursing and coordinating the RN to B.S. program — is pursuing her Ph.D. in nursing at VCU with a research focus on health outcomes of intensive care unit survivors.

“Tracye’s is an inspiring story,” said Debra Barksdale, Ph.D., Nursing Alumni Endowed Professor and associate dean of academic affairs. As Barksdale notes, the streamlined concurrent enrollment approach will make it even simpler for community college students to succeed in a baccalaureate setting.

Barksdale said the RN to B.S. courses — all of which are online — enhance nurses’ overall knowledge of subjects ranging from administration and informatics to historical and contemporary trends that have influenced nursing as a profession.

Participants can take a deeper dive into topics such as social determinants of health, evidence-based practice and interprofessional collaboration.

“Students also enhance clinical management and decision-making skills,” Barksdale said. “It allows them to apply what they have learned in virtual and real-world settings.”

In addition to the VCU agreements with Rappahannock and Southside Virginia community colleges, as of last year the School of Nursing offers guaranteed admission for students who graduate in good standing from any associate of applied science in nursing program in the Virginia Community College System.

A recent position statement by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing noted a number of positive outcomes linked to nurses being educated at baccalaureate and higher levels.

“I have heard so many of our RN to B.S. graduates say how much they learned and how it changed their whole perspective on nursing and nursing education,” Barksdale said.

Proffitt concurred. “I definitely feel fortunate for the knowledge and insight I gained in the RN to B.S. program.”

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