Helping you live your best life

Skip main navigation
Group Created with Sketch.

Need help

What can we help you find?

Related Search Terms

Related Search Results


Nursing students — who volunteered on the frontlines of the pandemic — return to hometown hospital

After showing an unwavering dedication to their community during the COVID-19 pandemic, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital hires nursing students who administered COVID-19 vaccines.

A nursing student gives a patient a shot while a nurse observes. Victoria Ezell, RN, vaccinates Jean Clay Bagley while Patty Mayer, RN, observes in January 2021. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Kristy Fowler and Sara McCloskey

The halls of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) are very familiar to Victoria Ezell, of South Hill, and Abby Hatley, of Chase City.

Both women were Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) nursing students who volunteered for a major public health initiative to help their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While most people were social distancing and trying to protect themselves from the virus any way they knew how, these students gave COVID-19 vaccines before they were even immunized themselves. 

“It was really cool to be a part of history by giving the vaccines and to be able to help the immediate community to help stop the spread of COVID,” Hatley said.

Hatley and Ezell were among a team of CMH volunteers who administered nearly 1,500 vaccines to vulnerable and at-risk people in South Hill during the first few months the shots were available in 2021. They’re not alone. Students from SVCC and Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU faculty and VCU Health team members also played a crucial role in mass vaccination campaigns across the entire VCU Health system.

Similar to most hospitals across the country, CMH experienced a nursing shortage with high volumes of hospitalized patients and staff out sick. With the hospital’s long-standing relationship with SVCC, this volunteer opportunity was a win-win to get the help of nursing students while they received on-the-job experience.

A nurse stands in an emergency room hallway.
Victoria Ezell works in the emergency department at CMH. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

“It was hard to get in-person experience because our clinical hours were cut,” Ezell said. “Some hospitals shut down their clinical rotations for nursing students during the pandemic, but Community Memorial Hospital welcomed us with open arms.”

That welcoming environment made all the difference for Ezell and Hatley, as they planned the next steps for their careers. Both are now CMH team members – dedicating their time and expertise to caring for Southside community members.

Inspiring the next generation of rural health care providers

During the summer of 2021, Hatley participated in a summer nurse extern program at CMH. The program allowed her to shadow CMH team members in the intensive care unit (ICU), seeing how providers collaboratively work to care for patients. 

Hatley has lived in Mecklenburg County most of her life, so CMH is very close to home. 

“Being on night shift here at a small hospital, you really learn how to be resourceful and to do what you can with what you have,” Hatley said.

As Hatley and Ezell continue to pursue their bachelor's degrees in nursing over the past year, at University of Virginia and Chamberlain University respectively, they have been working at CMH. Hatley is a registered nurse in the ICU and Ezell is a registered nurse in the emergency department. 

A nurse stands in front of a patient room.
Abby Hatley works in the intensive care unit at CMH. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

“[CMH] is the only place I applied. I was offered my job in January 2022 when I didn't graduate until May. At the beginning of June, I started as a nurse tech and then I moved up to being a registered nurse applicant while I was waiting to take my nursing boards,” Hatley said.

CMH is a leader in health services for the south-central region of Virginia and portions of North Carolina. Part of CMH’s mission is to improve the health of our communities by providing accessible educational opportunities for residents of all ages.
The programming is driven by the needs of community members, including regular group discussions with CMH team members on important health care topics, such as stroke and mental health. With unique courses, such as Career Scene Investigation (CSI) summer camps, Registered Nurse Extern Program and free babysitting certifications, CMH also hopes to inspire the next generation of health care providers, scientists and responsible community members.
“We get kids excited about health care in middle school through our summer camp program, we offer clinical rotations to nursing students,” Hazel Willis, CMH education manager. “[CMH] assists with tuition reimbursement once you’re hired. Overall, we have a robust workforce wellness program.”
These lessons and focus on wellness are also carried out in the clinic. Hatley notes how “there is so much you can do” in nursing, but what she loves the most is the impact she has on her patients and their families in making sure they feel heard.

“Letting them know there's someone there for them around the clock is super important when it comes to building that relationship and making the hospital stay comfortable,” Hatley said. “I tell my patients’ families when they get ready to leave for the night as I'm coming on, ‘If you wake up in the middle of the night, and want to check on your family member, just call.’”

Even the newest CMH team members embody an unwavering dedication to restoring health for all people of Virginia, North Carolina and beyond. The community-focused environment helps them thrive in South Hill. 
“We have a great hometown hospital, and everybody here truly cares what's best for the patient,” Ezell said. “I felt comfortable [at CMH] whenever we had clinicals. So, I knew I wanted to come back here — it just feels like home.”

Sign Up for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s E-Newsletter