SVHEC Area Health Education Center Awarded
Tobacco Commission Grant to Combat Regional Nursing Shortage

South Boston, VA—On May 24th, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Area Health Education Center (SVHEC-AHEC) was awarded a $125,000 grant to combat the regional nursing shortage by recruiting students into nursing education programs.

“SVHEC appreciates the opportunity to leverage Tobacco Commission funds with the Center’s AHEC resources to focus on a critical shortage of healthcare workers in the region,” said Dr. Betty H. Adams, SVHEC Executive Director. “We will work hand in hand with our educational partners and regional healthcare providers to increase student enrollment numbers in the exceptional community college and university programs offered across the region.”

Despite strong demand for nurses, current nursing program enrollment levels are not yielding enough nurses to fill open positions. Regional hospitals are facing a critical shortage of workers to fill open positions, and this trend is expected to continue.

According to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital (SHRH) Chief Executive Officer Chris Lumsden, “SHRH relies on its excellent staff to meet the mission of improving health, and the nursing professionals Sentara employs are critical to this endeavor. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates to fill nursing positions in our organization.”

The SVHEC AHEC focuses on recruiting middle and high school students and adults to healthcare education programs, and works closely with regional education partners who offer those programs. With the TRRC grant funds, SVHEC AHEC staff will develop and implement additional, intensive recruitment strategies to attract students from the region into Associate Degree Nursing (ADN), Practical Nursing, and Nurse Aide programs offered by SVHEC partners Danville and Southside Virginia Community Colleges.

“The intervention at this stage is critical to alleviating the shortage of available nurses in our region. Without ensuring a robust pipeline of qualified students, we cannot expect an adequate pool of qualified nurses,” said W. Scott Burnette, Chief Executive Officer at VCU Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, VA. According to Burnette, VCU CMH expects to hire 12-15 nurses in the next two years as they bring the new hospital facility on line.

“In the first year of operations, SVHEC AHEC recruitment efforts have already reached over 800 Southside Virginians. With this award, we'll be able to have even greater impact,” said Ann Switzer, SVHEC Associate Director of the Center of Nursing Excellence and AHEC program. With an increased number of nursing students regional healthcare facilities will have a richer pipeline to fill current and future workforce needs.

“Educational capacity exists, jobs exist, but student enrollment is not meeting demand. We have to find a way to recruit more of our young people into the healthcare pipeline. Our quality of life depends on it,” Adams said.

About the SVHEC-AHEC Program:

The Virginia AHEC Program is a federally funded initiative that aims to: (1) educate and train students to become culturally competent primary care health professionals who will provide healthcare in underserved areas and to health disparity populations; (2) increase the number and variety of primary care health professionals who provide care to underserved populations in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and other medically underserved areas; and (3) recruit into health careers individuals from underrepresented minority populations or from disadvantaged or rural backgrounds. AHEC goals are aligned with the SVHEC’s mission to advance Southern Virginia’s economic potential through education, innovation, and collaboration.

The Virginia AHEC Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration Grant (#U77HP26289) for $815,999 (FY14). For more information on the AHEC at SVHEC, contact Ann Switzer 434-572-5443, toll-free 1-800-283-0098 ext 5443, or email


annswitzerThe Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) recognizes Ann Switzer, RN, associate director of the Center of Nursing Excellence, for obtaining the Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator (CHSE) endorsement. CHSE is a multidisciplinary program administered by The Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) to certify healthcare simulation educators who demonstrate professional and educational competence in their field.

“Congratulations are extended to Ann for her attainment of the CHSE designation. We are very proud of her accomplishments and know that this industry-recognized credential helps to raise the profile of our Center of Nursing Excellence regionally and nationally," said Dr. Nettie Simon-Owens, director of workforce services at the SVHEC.

Only select healthcare simulation professionals earn this endorsement that recognizes specialized knowledge, skills, abilities, and accomplishments in simulation. According to SSH Accreditation and Certification Coordinator Kristyn Gadlage there are 336 CHSEs with only 12 currently certified in Virginia.

The SVHEC has been awarded a Rural Health Network Development Planning grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The $85,000 grant will be used to coordinate efforts of regional healthcare providers as they consider community healthcare needs and what this means for healthcare worker roles moving forward.

SVHEC will serve as coordinator of network efforts between participating healthcare provider organizations, which so far include Halifax Regional Health System, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville, Danville Regional Medical Center, and Piedmont Access to Health Services, Inc (PATHS). The Dan River Region Collaborative and Southside Virginia Community College will join SVHEC in support of network initiatives.

“The SVHEC is pleased to be one of only eighteen organizations tapped to receive this federal grant,” said Dr. Betty H. Adams, SVHEC executive director. “These grant funds allow us to leverage the power of a network of healthcare providers to identify ways to positively impact healthcare in rural southern Virginia,” she continued.

Participating healthcare groups will jointly explore ways to extend healthcare outreach in ways that will improve the quality of life for citizens of southern Virginia. Plans include a close look at the role of Community Health Outreach Workers, and ways these types of workers could be used in southern Virginia to improve community outreach. Community Health Outreach Workers serve as a liaison between healthcare providers, social services, and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the coordination and quality of service delivery. 


Hearing Voices SimulationWe see them at the grocery store, the post office, and around town going about their normal activities. But for those afflicted with auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices, there is an internal battle raging that requires extreme focus and concentration to complete the simplest task.

Students in Southside Virginia Community College’s Practical Nursing School recently took part in a hearing voices simulation at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Center of Nursing Excellence (CNE). The goal of the simulation was to provide students with a glimpse into the world of individuals living with this particular type of mental illness.

“This is one of our most popular simulation experiences for healthcare students,” said Ann Switzer, Associate Director of the CNE. “The experience can also be adapted for training with emergency providers, policemen, and other groups who interact with the general public as part of their jobs.”

Drew Morris

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) announces Drew Morris has accepted the position of Simulation Technologist for the Center of Nursing Excellence (CNE). As Simulation Technologist, Morris will be responsible for providing operational and technical support for the CNE's clinical learning lab. The CNE is part of the Workforce Services department at the SVHEC with Ann Switzer as Associate Director.  “I am so excited about adding Drew to the CNE and Workforce Services team.  His technology expertise and enthusiasm for developing our programming are going to make a big difference for us,” Switzer said.

Morris is a familiar face at the SVHEC, having served as IT Specialist since 2010. In that position he provided help desk support, computer lab management, and network maintenance. Morris is a Microsoft Certified IT Professional, Desktop Support Technician and Technology Specialist. He holds additional certifications in computer diagnosis and repair.