In 1966 the nursing program was approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Virginia Board of Nursing to develop a nursing program. The first students were admitted to the undergraduate program in 1969. Eleven members of the charter class graduated in 1973, and the program was granted initial accreditation by the National League for Nursing in 1976.
Following a rapid growth period, the nursing program gained school status in 1982 and college status in 1984. In 1988, the graduate program in nursing started with a concentration in home health nursing, followed by an advanced adult concentration in 1991, and in 1995 a family nurse practitioner concentration and a certificate program for both post baccalaureate and post master's students in gerontological nursing. As a result of institutional reorganization in 1997, the School of Nursing became part of the Waldron College of Health and Human Services.
Based on a needs assessment conducted by the Western Region Consortium for Continuing Higher Education, a track for registered nurse students was initiated in the fall of 1986. Sites over the years have included:
- Abingdon (75 miles south of Radford)
- Wytheville (28 miles south of Radford)
- Martinsville (97 miles east of Radford)
- Low Moor (107 miles northwest of Radford)
- Tazewell (100 miles west of Radford)
- Roanoke (50 miles northeast of Radford)
Off-site classes have been continued in selected areas using a variety of distance education technology (audio teleconferencing and video/computers). The Roanoke site was established in 1988 with an agreement between Radford University and Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH). CRMH closed its diploma school and has worked closely with RU to have on-site basic baccalaureate instruction located in the Roanoke area.
The nursing education curriculum has continued to change in response to the health care needs and delivery mechanisms in the region, Commonwealth, nation, and world. The current average enrollment is 600, with approximately 280 in the upper division, 300 in the lower division and 52 in the doctoral program. The School of Nursing offers BSN and RN-BSN undergraduate tracks. At the graduate level,the DNP is offered to post-BSN, post-MSN with certification, and post-masters in nursing without certification with concentrations in Family Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist. Since its inception the Radford University School of Nursing has graduated more than 2,000 students.