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Nursing Alumni Offer Insight for Future Students
Posted Date: 12/10/2013

 Big Stone Gap, VA. – The Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program at Mountain Empire Community College’s Advisory Board met Tuesday, December 3rd to discuss new updates for future nursing curriculums and how to prepare nursing students for the real healthcare world.

MECC Nursing Advisory Committee 2013

Marking the 40th year of VATNP at MECC, the faculty were excited to realize the majority of attendees were alumni of the program and are now in leadership positions in local healthcare facilities and with VATNP at MECC. Many agreed that nurses today need better customer service skills to work with patients. “We were taught how to think outside of the box,” said Kellie Carter, the Clinical Leader of the Emergency Department at Lonesome Pine Hospital. “Today’s generation forgets that they are talking to REAL people—not computers.”


Back Row:

Rhandi Harris, Kim Pennington, Keith Cowden, Debbie Wright, Mitch Kennedy

Front Row:

Kellie Carter, Jada Oakes, Mandy Robbins


The Alumni included:



Mitch Kennedy


Asst. Administrator/Chief Nursing Officer

Norton Community/Dickenson County Medical Center

Class of 2000


Rhandi Harris

Clinical Leader Medical Surgical/Pediatrics & Intermediate Medical Unit

Lonesome Pine Hospital

Class of 1998


Kim Pennington

Clinical Leader of Medical Surgical/Pediatrics & Intensive Care Unit

Mountain View Regional Hospital

Class of 2000


Kellie Carter

Clinical Leader of Emergency Department

Lonesome Pine Hospital

Class of 1991


Keith Cowden

Assistant Professor—Virginia Appalachian TriCollege Nursing Program (VATNP)

Class of 1995


Debbie Wright

Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of VATNP

Class of 1994


Jada Oakes

Nursing Retention Specialist-VATNP

Class of 2008


Mandy Robbins

Assistant Professor-VATNP

Class of 2007


MECC’s Nursing Program is currently in communications with four year institutions to create transfer agreements for Bachelors’ of Science in Nursing programs. “Research indicates that 80% of community college nursing graduates stay in the community,” stated Kathy Mitchell, Dean of the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing Program at Mountain Empire Community College. “We want them to stay current in our field.”

For more information about the Virginia Appalachian Tricollege Nursing program at MECC, contact Deborah Wright, Associate Professor of Nursing and Assistant Dean of the VATNP at