Jeffrey Bryan Petraco, MBA, AGPCNP
Jeffrey Bryan Petraco, MBA, AGPCNP, RN

Jeff was an integral part of our family at the VCU School of Nursing for five years during which time he held roles as a student in the accelerated bachelor’s degree program, a research assistant, an adjunct professor, an affiliate faculty member, and a project coordinator for the Office of Practice and Community Engagement.

Jeff earned his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA and subsequently went on to earn his M.B.A. from Temple University. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college. After a 31-year career working in public health and social services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Jeff retired in 2010.

Jeff had a bold and adventurous spirit. Not one to sit idle, he decided to pursue his lifelong interest in nursing in 2013 by enrolling in the accelerated bachelor’s program at the VCU School of Nursing.

This amazing choice to go back to school to follow his passion was featured in a VCU News article about first generation college students.

Jeff graduating with honors.
Jeff graduating with honors.

In the article, Jeff gives advice to students: “Know yourself, and know your passion.”

Jeff certainly knew himself and knew what he was passionate about – caring for others and doing his best every day.

After graduating as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner at the VCU School of Nursing in spring 2018, Jeff began working full time with the VCU School of Nursing Office of Practice and Community Engagement. Within this role, Jeff provided expertise related to the programming and research efforts of the Richmond Health and Wellness Program. His expertise in managing complex projects and his desire to help the underserved were a perfect match for his new role. His skills and training as a nurse practitioner equipped him well to precept student teams at the Richmond Health and Wellness clinical sites. His passion, positive attitude and can-do spirit will truly be missed. Jeff made a lasting impression on the population he served in the Richmond community.

People were so saddened upon hearing the news of the loss of such a kind and generous soul. During our grief, we started to realize Jeff’s true reach and impact.

Notes left for Jeff.
Notes left for Jeff.

People from all over the school felt compelled to write notes and leave them on his door, as a tribute. VCU nursing students, faculty, and staff all attended an extemporaneous tribute led by Debra Barksdale, Ph.D., associate dean of academic programs.

We learned that Jeff and his friend Hallel Basco dreamed of serving the underserved communities of Richmond by creating a nurse practitioner clinic at The Center for Healthy Hearts in Richmond.

Jeff and Hallel on graduation day.
Jeff Petraco and Hallel Basco on graduation day, May 11, 2018.

We learned from current students how much he meant to them as a clinical teacher. It was his encouragement that helped them through the most difficult troubles they were having in school.

We learned from former students who were Jeff’s classmates that he rode with them across country to see the eclipse because they wanted to go.

One of his former classmates shared this:

“I was a classmate of Jeff’s in nursing school. I didn’t know him well, I must say, until I lost my mom that first year by suicide. He reached out to me with his kind heart and raised money in my mom’s honor for the AFSP and walked with my family in the Out of the Darkness Walk. Rest in Peace to a beautiful person, give my momma a kiss for me!” – Ellen Cash

With his endless generosity, optimism and calmness, he had a profound impact on many of VCU School of Nursing’s students, faculty and staff. He will be forever missed. His talents and contributions will remain within the spirit of our work as we move on.

One poem that was left in honor of Jeff by an unknown author:

A Symbol of Hope

A Symbol of Hope
A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam
And for a brief moment its glory
And beauty belong to our world
But then it flies again
And though we wish it could have stayed…
We feel lucky to have seen it.

Jeff will be remembered at a Buddhist Powa Service on December 21, beginning at 2 p.m., at the Kadampa Meditation Center Maryland, at 900 East Northern Parkway, Baltimore, Maryland 21212.

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