Caring Runs in the Family
By Mark Lambert, M.S. '97
The Radford University community is often described as a family, but for one group of nursing students, the description is literal. Seven members of one family have graduated from the Radford School of Nursing programs over the years and now care for our families, friends and neighbors across Southwest Virginia and in neighboring states.
Meghan Young, B.S.N. ’16, RN, summarized that, in addition to herself, these other members of her family have all earned nursing degrees from Radford University: “My aunt Denise [Jackson] Jacobs graduated in 1991 and started out at Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Pennsylvania; my aunt Kristie [Long] Jackson graduated in 1994 with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and in 2006 with her Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner and started as a nurse at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in the 9 South medical surgical progressive care unit; my aunt Jennifer [Jackson] Poole graduated in 1996 and started in the medical surgical department at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. I also have two cousins, Ashley [Jackson] Morris ’15 and Raegan Poole ’20, who started in the emergency department at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and one cousin, Samantha Poole, who will be graduating in December 2022.”
A FAMILY TRADITION
Denise Jacobs, B.S.N. ’91, RN, the first to go through the Radford nursing program, feels that one of the reasons the family has been so eager to join the program is because of the positive experiences their relatives have gone through.
“I felt my education in the Radford University nursing program was superb and made no secret about it,” Jacobs said. “I always had very positive things to say, and so do the other Radford alumni in my family. When we shared all the great things we got to do and learn with each other, it was a no-brainer for the rest of the family members to enroll.”
Jacobs added that, over the years, each family member could see how successful the professional nurses were in her family and related it directly to the exceptional education they received at Radford.
“We were all well-rounded and very prepared for the reality of the nursing profession,” she said.
Jennifer Poole, M.S.N. ’96, RN, who currently works as a staff nurse at the birthing center at LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, agreed. She said that she often encourages anyone with an interest in nursing to check out the Radford program. Beyond her own time as a nursing student — which she says was wonderful — Poole believes that the program offers students an innovative and unique nursing education that is hard to find anywhere else.
“I strongly believe that the Radford School of Nursing teaches students from day one the importance of self-discipline and self-awareness,” said Poole, “which are integral to being an expert nurse with a holistic approach to patient-centered care.”
Young said that she found the nursing program challenged her mentally and prepared her for the real world, where she has worked in the emergency departments at both Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and Carilion New River Valley Medical Center.
She said that the clinical simulation center at Radford helps prepare students to perform procedures and improve students’ bedside manner by making them better caregivers.
“Radford has a great hands-on learning experience with the simulation center,” Young said. “You have lots of opportunities to participate in clinical experiences that get you ready for almost anything you will face. Plus, the professors, who have all worked in a variety of healthcare settings, are very supportive and want to help students succeed.”
A WORLD-CLASS PROGRAM IN THEIR OWN BACKYARD
Most of the family hails from the New River Valley and Christiansburg specifically. That was another selling point for each of the family members who attended Radford.
“We all loved that Radford was right in our backyard,” Poole said. “ It’s a university, but at the same time, a tight community of students, faculty and staff on a beautiful campus with an intimate feel.”
Young echoed those sentiments, saying that the Radford experience is different because of the smaller student-to-professor ratio, which helps everyone bond more closely.
“Radford just feels so much more personal than larger universities,” she said. “While I was in nursing school, I met lifelong friends, and we always were able to relate to each other because of our shared experience as Highlanders.”
The Radford University nursing program, which traces its roots back to 1966, boasts an average enrollment of 600. Approximately 300 of those students are in undergraduate programs, 280 are in master’s programs and 52 in the doctoral program. By keeping those numbers relatively small, the School of Nursing offers students a more personal experience with a greater chance to participate in learning opportunities. This ensures that graduates are prepared, enlightened, compassionate professionals who will meet the diverse needs of the local and global community.
“The nursing program is definitely intense, but the benefits definitely outweigh the effort,” said Jacobs. “Graduates are very prepared for the boards and the clinical setting when they complete the program.”
In fact, Young experiences the pride of being a Highlander often.
“A part of my job as an emergency room nurse is to help orient new hires,” she said. “One time, I had an orientee from Tennessee ask me where I had gone to nursing school, and when I told her Radford University, she said that she had heard about Radford and that it had an amazing nursing program. I then pointed out all of the other Radford grads in the department, and she said they were all great nurses.”
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
Jacobs said that she has always been proud to be a Highlander, and that pride is just as strong today as it has ever been. Poole agrees.
“Words can’t describe the sense of pride I feel being a Radford alum,” Poole said. “I express it, of course, through wearing trendy Radford attire and encouraging anyone and everyone to go to Radford. It was such a great experience for me that I want to share those opportunities with everyone.”
Poole has definitely shared that love of Radford with her own immediate family. One of her daughters, Raegan, graduated in November 2020, and another, Samantha, just finished her first semester as a nursing student.
Young has long-term plans to continue the family tradition well into the 21st century. Her 11-month-old daughter, Darcy, recently had a college shirt day at her daycare.
“I dressed her in a shirt that read, ‘Radford University School of Nursing, Class of 2041,’” she said. “She might just be the next generation to graduate with a Radford nursing degree in our family!”