Laurel Ridge Community College’s Registered Nursing Program is a wonderful way to get into a fulfilling nursing career in just two years, according to Kristin Klutz. She should know – she is a Laurel Ridge RN alumna and a seasoned Valley Health Employee.
The 2010 graduate serves as the academic liaison for Winchester Medical Center and is the coordinator of Valley Health’s Nurse Residency Program. Her liaison role has recently led to Klutz returning to the Middletown Campus to serve on a curriculum advisory committee for nursing.
Klutz spent two years at George Mason University before deciding to relocate to the Winchester area to be closer to family – including a beloved aunt who was a nurse at Winchester Medical Center – and apply to Laurel Ridge Community College. She started nursing school in fall 2008, and was immediately glad she had chosen Laurel Ridge.
“I had Polly Stiefvater for med-surg I and II, and she was amazing,” Klutz said. “Professor Lisa Marshall taught my mother-baby class. Professor Sam Baugher was our resource who helped us with whatever we needed. It was a really strong program and our professors truly cared about our success. And, I had classmates that I became really close with.”
Being back on campus for the first time since graduation to attend the committee meeting made Klutz nostalgic.
“Just walking through the doors, it was a flood of emotions and memories of studying and laughing and crying and stressing,” she said. “I was so happy to be there. I was honored that I was asked to be on the committee. Laurel Ridge is very near and dear to my heart.”
After Klutz completed her nursing program at Laurel Ridge, she worked in the progressive care unit at Berkeley Medical Center. About a year and a half later, she began working at Winchester Medical Center.
“I landed my dream job on the mother-and-baby unit,” said Klutz, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Grand Canyon University.
She remained with that unit until January 2022 when she was hired for her current position as the nursing residency coordinator. All new nurses arriving at the medical center are enrolled in the residency program, which has a curriculum focused on professional practices. Those in the program meet nurses from other departments and other Valley Health hospitals, as well as content experts.
“We offer an extra layer of support for them,” Klutz explained. “We’re adding on to that first-year knowledge they’re gaining, setting them up for success in the future as they go through their nursing career.”
Laurel Ridge nursing graduates are highly valued by the health system, according to Klutz, who also is the student outreach chair for the Virginia Nurses Association Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter. Thirty-three Laurel Ridge nursing grads were hired in 2022.
“The college provides us the most new nurses,” she said. “Laurel Ridge is producing ready-to-work nurses.”
Klutz said Winchester Medical Center is no longer requiring nurses to earn their bachelor’s degree within several years of hire, although it is encouraged for professional development.
“I’m very passionate about nurses taking the community college route,” she said. “It gets them into the workforce quicker, and then they can take advantage of tuition reimbursement at the organizations where they work. Valley Health offers very generous reimbursement.
“Nursing is not just a job. This is a profession, so I think the fact that they can enter this profession with a two-year degree is huge.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.