Andrea Tiller, RN, B.S.N. ’19: A multigenerational commitment to nursing
When Andrea Tiller, R.N., B.S.N. ’19, was in high school, she knew she wanted a career in healthcare, but she wasn’t sure which field she wanted to enter. Her mother and grandmother had both been nurses, so healthcare wasn’t new to her, but Tiller was interested in exploring all of her options before deciding on a career path.
“Healthcare is a rapidly growing industry with new thoughts and techniques emerging every day,” Tiller said. “I researched pharmacy, radiology, midwifery, nursing and anesthesiology. I was open to anything. It was exciting looking at all of the options.”
Exploring Healthcare Careers
Growing up, Tiller’s mother had always supported her interests in various careers, telling her she could be anything she wanted to be. When Tiller showed an interest in healthcare, her mother encouraged her to learn about different professions and shadow any job she could.
“I talked to my mom a lot about different healthcare jobs,” Tiller recalled. “She knows me better than anyone and knew how much I love to experience new things, meet new people and learn about new areas.”
After shadowing professionals in several areas, including radiology and pharmacy, Tiller and her mother decided together that nursing may be the perfect fit for her.
“The more we talked about it, the more I knew nursing was right for me,” Tiller said. “Nursing is so versatile. I loved that if I want to spend time in radiology, I could with a nursing degree. If I want to become a nurse anesthetist and work with anesthesiologists, I could with a nursing degree. Anything in the healthcare field that one would want to pursue, a nursing degree can be a prerequisite for all of them.”
A World-Class Nursing Education in Her Own Back Yard
The next step for the Radford native was deciding where she would study nursing, and she said it wasn’t a hard choice at all.
“Choosing Radford University was not difficult for me,” Tiller said. “A lot of students want to leave home when they go to college. As I started looking at nursing programs at other schools, I thought, why would I leave Radford when one of the best programs in the state is in my backyard?”
Tiller lived with her parents and commuted to campus, which allowed her to work while earning her degree at Radford. That was just one of the many advantages of attending college in her hometown.
“I was able to save money by staying close to home, working and eating my mom’s cooking,” Tiller said. “By going to Radford, I was able to stay close to family. I was there for my sister’s volleyball games and her high school experience, and I was able to be there when my older sister was planning her wedding. All of that was just priceless.”
Radford’s nursing program produces excellent nurses from a rigorous program that prepares them for anything. There is a reason for that, and it’s experience. Experience is everything in nursing; the more you see, the more you know.”
In addition to the personal benefits of remaining in Radford, Tiller had the opportunity to get a world-class education at one of the best nursing schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“Radford’s nursing program produces excellent nurses from a rigorous program that prepares them for anything,” Tiller said. “There is a reason for that, and it’s experience. Experience is everything in nursing; the more you see, the more you know.”
Much of the experience Tiller refers to is gained through clinical rotations, or shifts worked in hospitals and clinics where students get the chance to work directly with patients. Radford University nursing students are encouraged to participate in as many of these hands-on experiences as possible during their time as Highlanders. Through these rotations, nursing students evolve as enlightened, compassionate professionals who will meet the diverse needs of the local and global community.
Tiller said she had 840 clinical hours when she graduated from Radford in December 2019 with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, including experiences with inpatient rotations in the hospital, outpatient experiences including school nursing, long-term care facilities, memory care facilities, assisted living facilities, an EMS rotation and even a Lamaze class. The Virginia Board of Nursing states that the minimum requirement is 500 hours.
Finding Her Nursing Niche
In addition to giving students the opportunity to gain experience, clinical rotations can also be a factor in helping students decide which specialty they want to enter.
“Throughout clinicals, I liked everything I was involved in,” Tiller recalled. “I wasn’t really sure what area I wanted to go into, but when we had our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) clinicals, I found it really appealed to me. I liked ICU clinicals so much that I spent my six-week practicum, which is like the internship before we graduate, working with a nurse on an ICU in Roanoke.”
Tiller said that practicum finalized her choice to work as an ICU nurse and helped her move smoothly from student to employee in the healthcare workforce. Today, she works at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in the Critical Care Unit.
“I have been working for almost a year now, and I still learn something new every shift that prepares me to do it better the next time,” Tiller said.
A Dedicated Highlander Alumni Ambassador
On top of a career as a nurse, Tiller has maintained a close connection to the Radford family. Last year, during a zoom meeting with fellow Highlander alumni and Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., Tiller said that she could tell how respected a Radford education was out in the field and that it “really meant something.”
She continued, “In the healthcare community, Radford University nursing is thought of highly and sought after. When I started working, I could tell a difference between Radford graduates and other program graduates. During my year of practice, I have had evaluations and heard phrases from superiors including, ‘you act more experienced and confident than most new graduates’ and ‘I can’t believe you’ve only been a nurse for a year.’ I truly believe that Radford nursing graduates are top of the line, and I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful that Radford University gave me the tools to care for the people in my community with the best care possible.”
Tiller said that during her job interview process, her status as a Radford alum was always seen as a positive because Highlanders carried themselves with a confidence and skill not often found among her colleagues.
“Being a new nurse is scary,” Tiller said. “Despite that feeling, though, I knew I had a solid background from my training at Radford. Compared to peers from other schools, Radford graduates stand out. Being a Radford nursing program alum means that you went through one of the most rigorous programs in the state and made it; employers and peers notice that. I know mine have.”
Tiller also has praise for the instructors in the nursing program.
“The entire nursing faculty works so hard; they are a well-oiled machine,” she said. “They know what it takes to be a great nurse, and they hold you accountable to become one. It takes a village to make a great nurse, and the nursing faculty is a good one to have on your side.”
Tiller may see some of those faculty members again in a few years when she returns to earn her family nurse practitioner degree. For now, though, she’s happy just to steer more prospective nursing students under their tutelage.
“I tell students that are thinking about joining the Radford nursing program that they are investing in themselves and their future, and Radford nursing is one of the best investments they can make.”