Registered Nursing in Virginia: Becoming an RN in VA and Beyond

Virginia’s RNs have diverse careers, from supporting the acutely ill to promoting health.

As professional nurses, RNs are well-prepared for nursing patients who are experiencing acute medical issues. 20% of Virginia RNs consider their primary specialty to be one of the following: acute/ critical care, emergency, or trauma. Another 8% cite surgery, perioperative, or post-operative care. Cardiology, oncology, obstetrics and neonatal care specialties are also common.

RNs enter the field with degrees at different levels (RN programs in VA). While ADN and BSN programs both qualify graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination at the RN level, there is some difference in career paths.

Diverse Work Settings

A group of RNs may work for the same employer, but be stationed in very different work settings. Medical systems often provide many services, inpatient and outpatient, and offer a continuum of care. They may, for example, operate their own home health services for individuals who have been discharged from the hospital but still require health-related services. Among the duties of nurses in home care is making sure the home environment is safe from hazards.

Healthcare systems may also offer hospice services for people who are no longer seeking treatment. Hospice patients are people who will live only a matter of months if their diseases run their expected course. Hospice nurses provide palliative care – maintaining physical comfort can help patients make the most of their last days. This may include pain medication as well as other interventions. Nurses also help prepare families for impending death. A hospice nurse’s days can include various little actions taken to fulfill wishes. Sentara, a healthcare system that boasts seven Virginia magnet hospitals, notes that nurses may find themselves doing anything from bringing a treat a patient remembers from childhood to making a phone call to arrange for wedding officiation (

Health systems also need individuals who can serve as bridges between settings and providers, determine the appropriate level of care for patients with ongoing needs, and help the patients themselves navigate the system. Sentara calls a portion of their workforce ‘invisible nurses’: those who provide case management, after-hours triage, and health services out in the community. The organization urges people to think of care managers as nurses who are able to perform a valuable and difficult service as opposed to ones who need a slower pace. Often care managers do have backgrounds in emergency or critical care.

Mary Washington Healthcare, meanwhile, forged a partnership with the local YMCA to teach pre-diabetes management classes; the project involved RNs and dietitians. Nonprofit hospitals are expected to perform functions that benefit the greater community. Among the responsibilities is completion of a community needs assessment.

These same services can of course be offered by other types of provider. Some home care organizations, for example, are stand-alone.

RNs who are very interested in population health may go into public or community health nursing. RN programs, particularly those with education at the BSN level, also offer good preparation for population-level health and health improvement. Health departments have done quite a bit of posting in early 2018. They have sought RNs to carry out immunization and other screening and prevention programs and to work in the field of maternal-child health, among other roles. Some local health department employees are involved with multiple diverse programs.

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RN Survey Data

Where do Virginia nurses actually work? The largest subset, 38%, work in inpatient units of hospitals. Two other hospital-based settings, emergency department and outpatient, account for 7% and 6% respectively. Some provide same-day services in other settings. Ambulatory surgical centers, primary care or non-specialty clinics, and physician’s offices are the primary setting for 4% each; another 2% are stationed in non-surgical specialty clinics. 5% are in home health, 4% in long-term care or nursing home settings, 2% in hospice. 6% of Virginia’s professional nurses work in academic settings carrying out research and/ or educating others.

School health services accounts for just 3%. This is an area where there has been concerted effort to increase availability of services, setting minimum nurse staffing requirements. Many services within schools are provided by aides (

The Healthcare Workforce Data Center defines patient care roles as ones where at least 60% of the time is spent in this function; 65% of respondents meet this definition.

Premier Virginia Institutions to look at for RN Jobs in Virginia

Virginia has 22 magnet hospitals. They are located in cities and towns throughout the Old Dominion. The Shenandoah Valley area may not have big cities, but it does boast a magnet facility, Winchester Medical Center. The following are among the state’s other magnet facilities:


  • Inova Fair Oaks Hospital
  • Sentara Leigh Hospital
  • University of Virginia Health System
  • VCU Medical Center

The Sentara RMH Medical Center was profiled by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as an example of the magnet journey ( The facility’s gap analysis led nurse leaders to focus on two areas: falls and patient satisfaction. These were addressed through the shared governance structure. The ANCC notes that Sentara RMH Medical Center has more nurses who participate in research and dissemination of information than it used to. Also noted was an increase in nurse specialty certification.

Bon Secours-Richmond made the Becker’s Hospital Review list of top places to work in healthcare.

Average RN Salary in Virginia

The typical Virginia RN makes $60,000 to $70,000 a year, according to the Healthcare Workforce Data Center. There is a wide range of salaries, with large portions of the workforce in each bracket from 40K to 80K.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average hourly wage of $32.05 ($66,670 for 2,080 hours).

The Virginia RN profession has been projected to see 14% occupational growth over the course of the 2014 to 2024 decade.

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