For the first time in the history of Virginia Western Community College’s Nursing Program, six faculty members have earned the designation of Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), one of the highest distinctions for a nurse educator.

The faculty members earned the credential by meeting strict eligibility criteria and successfully completing a rigorous exam administered by the National League of Nursing.

“It’s important that we are always challenging ourselves to be better, and we also want to be the best for our students to inspire them to be successful. The way to do that is to be at the top of our game,” said Lauren Hayward, Administrative Officer for the College’s Nursing Program.

Nationally, the failure rate for the CNE exam is high, so the College was committed to providing the faculty with the tools they needed to prepare for success. The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation awarded an Innovation Grant to provide funding to establish a library of resources, study materials and test fees.

Five of the six faculty members were scheduled to test in March before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted testing schedules, postponing exam completion until late summer.

“They rose to the challenge and kept their heads in the game,” said Hayward. “As nurses, we don’t get to collapse during a pandemic; we rise. They modeled resilience to each other, their peers, students and the community.”

Having most faculty members with this certification is unique for an associate-level nursing program, said Marilyn Herbert-Ashton, Vice President of Institutional Advancement.

“This is another way to demonstrate that our faculty are continuously learning, and that commitment to lifelong learning is important for nursing students to see,” Herbert-Ashton said. “It’s another way for the community to see that we have a stellar nursing program, taught by faculty of the highest caliber.”

The Virginia Western nursing program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing. There are about 120 first- and second-year nursing students enrolled in the concept-based curriculum program. Sixty students graduated in May 2020 to pursue their careers as registered nurses.