HINTON, WV (WVNS) — In southern West Virginia, going to college can mean driving long distances.  

Rising gas prices make it even harder to drive to class, but New River Community and Technical College and Summers County ARH Hospital in Hinton on Thursday, June 16, 2022, announced the launch of an Applied Science in Practical Nursing program at the hospital.  

Students may earn a certificate at the hospital instead of driving to Beckley, Princeton, or Lewisburg.

The hospital CEO says it’s the first program of its kind in Summers County. The program aims to give opportunities to students who will, in turn, stay and find nursing careers at home.

“They know that it’s family, friends, and neighbors that will take care of family friends, and neighbors,” said Wes Dangerfield, CEO of Summers ARH Hospital. “So if we can help in that career path, we’re blessed to do it and we know that they, in turn, will give back.

Gov. Jim Justice in December announced a $48 million investment to expand nursing education and to keep nurses working and in the state. During the pandemic, 1,700 state nurses didn’t renew their licenses.

Hospital administrators say that during Covid, the need for nurses became very clear. However, there had been a nursing shortage in southern WV for several years.

Area hospitals have been recruiting nurses since at least 2013.

New River President Bonny Copenhaver said the new program at Summers ARH is good for nursing students and for patients.

“A lot of students that choose to attend a community college like New River, they want to stay home,” said Dr. Bonny Copenhaver, president of New River CTC. “It does not matter which location they choose to attend.

“That is their sort of geographic home base. So when we train people here, they stand a much higher chance of  staying here and finding meaningful work in the community.”

Copenhaver said the course prepares students to work anywhere but that it gives them an added edge for serving at home.

“When local students work in local clinical facilities, when they’re on the floor, actually helping to take care of patients, they do get an introduction to the variety of patients and the particular issues that a region like this has,” she said.

Classes start on the Summers ARH campus in August.

Information is available on the New River Community and Technical College website.