‘Once a nurse, always a nurse’
How a School of Nursing alumna is ensuring future nursing students thrive in the profession that gave her so much
Ginger Edwards (B.S. ‘72, M.S. ‘77) was the first in her family to go into nursing. Now, in retirement following a rewarding career as a nurse practitioner, she has a new calling: supporting new generations of VCU nursing students through scholarship giving.
Edwards credits VCU with her success in the profession. “VCU got me started in my career, and I stayed with it all along.” She described that from her first weeks in the undergraduate program, she knew her career was on the right footing.
After working as a registered nurse for two years, Edwards made an appointment to meet with an advisor in the school. It just so happened to be the same day in 1974 when the school announced they had been awarded federal funding to establish a nurse practitioner program.
At that time, the closest nurse practitioner program was in Charlottesville. Edwards was eager to be ahead of the curve and seize the opportunity to be a member of the first class to enter the program. “It was fortuitous that I happened to be there the day the announcement about the program was made,” she said. She earned her master’s in 1977.
Following graduation, Edwards started out in general practice and later moved on to specialize in cardiology. She also returned to the classroom–this time as an instructor. Between progressive roles in practice and new opportunities to inspire students, she found her career was a good fit. “Being a nurse practitioner is a wonderful career and so versatile. You have so much flexibility,” said Edwards.
Because the nurse practitioner certification was newer at that time, the provider community at large was less familiar with its scope of practice and how the role fit into the existing health care structure. Undeterred by that prevailing perception, Edwards made history as the first inpatient nurse practitioner hire in adult medicine at VCU Health. “I knew that, even if the future of the nurse practitioner certification didn’t work out, they couldn’t take the knowledge away from me. That knowledge stays with you,” she said.
Edwards felt a lot of pressure to represent nurse practitioners well, knowing her work and reputation were setting a precedent for other NPs who would follow her. She succeeded, enjoyed a lengthy career and retired in 2014.
Though retired, Edwards has found new ways to make contributions to the profession. She makes annual gifts to the School of Nursing through funding student scholarships and more recently committed to making a planned gift from her estate to the school.
“We talk about what will happen when we’re gone. I want my estate to be an investment in the future, to give students the foundation that I was provided with by the school.”
Edwards recognizes her support strengthens the tradition of nursing and caregiving she so admires. “The education I got gave me a foundation that, well I can’t even express it in words. It gave me a good life. If I can support and help people to get that same experience through scholarships, I want to do that.”
If you would like to support student scholarships at the VCU School of Nursing, please contact Pam Lowe, senior director of development, at (804) 827-0020 or email@example.com.
by Moira Neve and Caitlin Hanbury