10 Best Nursing Schools in Virginia – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Virginia is one of those rare states where experts are actually predicting a surplus of nurses by the year 2030. That doesn’t mean the demand for qualified nurses will go away; in fact, it’s likely that graduates of the best-accredited nursing schools in Virginia may actually have a competitive edge when it comes to employment options. Certain specialty areas like psychiatric nurses and nurse practitioners are in short supply now, and that shortage is expected to grow. Many of these professionals practice in the northern part of the state around Charlottesville, Radford, and Winchester, leaving vast portions of the state inadequately resourced. Even with a nursing surplus in the northern metropolitan areas of the state, rural communities in other parts of the state will still experience a nursing shortage.



(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the Virginia State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in Virginia offering BSN programs.)

1. University of Virginia, Charlottesville

About School of Nursing @ UVA: If you think a nurse’s place doesn’t stop at the bedside but continues in the world outside the hospital to help make the community a healthier place, then the School of Nursing at the University of Virginia has much to offer you. The school consistently ranks among the top nursing colleges in Virginia and in the nation. In 1928, when the school was founded, it was the first nursing school in the state to offer a nursing baccalaureate degree. The UVA School of Nursing is known for its research as well as for its academics, and nearly half of its full-time research faculty here have fellowships funded by the National Nursing Academy.

Students learn how to give bedside care and apply basic nursing concepts in the 9,200-square-foot Mary Morton Parsons Simulation Learning Center, where they have access to virtual hospital environments and high-fidelity manikins, that can be programmed to respond to common health care situations in a variety of realistic ways. Clinical rotations take place in urban and rural health care facilities throughout Charlottesville and the surrounding communities. UVA nursing students provide free screenings and wellness education at numerous community events such as the Southwood health fair and the Washington Park African-American Cultural Festival. The school also sponsors international partnerships that facilitate learning opportunities in places like Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Guatemala.

Financial Aid: UVA sponsors nearly 20 scholarships specifically for undergraduate and graduate nursing students. The university also maintains a database of nursing-specific external scholarships. Students may qualify for federal and state financial aid as well by completing and submitting a FAFSA form.

2. James Madison University, Harrisonburg

About School of Nursing @ JMU: When you enroll as a student at the School of Nursing associated with James Madison University, there’s one word that will best describe your subsequent educational experience, and that is “engaged.” From your very first nursing lecture, the dynamic curriculum is designed to rivet your attention. There are innumerable opportunities to become involved with the surrounding community, too, through organizations like the Caregivers Community Network, the Precious Times Pediatric Respite Program and the Homeless Suitcase Clinic. JMU nursing promotes civic engagement as well through its innovative Health Policy Collaborative, which is a partnership between the School of Nursing, the College of Business and the Departments of Social Work, Communication Sciences & Disorders and Health Sciences.

The 7,000-square-foot clinical lab in the new Health and Behavioral Studies building contains simulated acute care and primary care setups where students can master core nursing procedures in a lifelike learning environment. Once they’re comfortable starting IVs and doing bedside assessments, students go on to perform rotations with the Valley Health Page Memorial Rural Health Centers and the nursing school’s other clinical partners. The school also offers international programs during the summer through which students can study the delivery of nursing care in Costa Rica, Spain and Tanzania.

Financial Aid: The deadline for applying for any of the School of Nursing’s 12 endowed scholarships is April 1. Nursing students may also qualify for external scholarships. Various types of state and federal financial aid may be available for JMU students upon the completion and submission of a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA.)

3. George Mason University, Fairfax

About School of Nursing @ GMU: If the reason why you want to become a nurse is because you’re committed to improving health outcomes in increasingly culturally diverse populations, then the School of Nursing at George Mason University will set you on the right track. These nursing degrees in VA will educate you to deliver health care to the underserved, high risk populations where it’s most needed. Community health and public health are huge foci at this school.

You’ll lay the foundations for critical reasoning and basic nursing competencies in the Simulation Laboratory and other clinical labs, which use computerized manikins and virtual hospital setups to help you perfect your bedside skills. The school is located close to the nation’s capital in Fairfax, so once these skills become second nature, you’ll go on to site rotations in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, primary care settings, schools and community agencies, throughout the North Capital region. As a student here, you’ll also have the opportunity to work at the unique nurse-managed Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics, which are administered and staffed by the nursing school.

Financial Aid: The School of Nursing sponsors seven scholarships specifically for undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Nursing students may also qualify for one of the many institutional scholarships offered by the university. Additionally, state and federal grants and loans may be available to students if their FAFSA forms indicate eligibility.

4. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond

About School of Nursing @ VCU: At Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing, you’ll learn how to deliver care that’s patient-centered, collaborative and cost-effective. The school offers students many opportunities to gain practical experience in identifying and treating population health issues that affect Virginia residents in rural communities as well as in urban centers. The university was founded as a medical college in 1854 and is one of the top-ranked research institutions in the U.S. with more than $270 million in funding in 2014-2015 alone. “U.S. New and World Report” ranks the School of Nursing, which is located on VCU’s MCV campus, among the top 50 programs of its kind in the nation.

Nursing students learn the basics of clinical insertions as well as technical skills such as IV insertion and medication administration at the Clinical Learning Center; the center includes acute care, primary care and critical care simulation suites. Clinical rotations take place at the VCU Medical Center and other hospitals, ambulatory care clinics and community health agencies throughout the greater Richmond metropolitan region.

Financial Aid: Students may qualify for a number of need-based and merit-based scholarships offered by the School of Nursing itself as well as for endowed scholarships offered by the university. The Financial Aid Office is also a good resource for students seeking additional state and federal funding sources; you will have to submit a FAFSA form to qualify for these.

5. Shenandoah University, Winchester

About Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing: Depending upon the degree they’re pursuing, students at Shenandoah University’s Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing will take classes at one of three facilities. The 71,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building on the Winchester campus is the nursing program’s headquarters but accelerated-second-degree students may pursue coursework at Scholar Plaza in Loudoun while graduate students will spend time at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax, which is close to Fairfax Hospital.

If you’ve always known that nursing is the career choice you want to pursue, then this school is an excellent choice. You’ll be taught the basics of providing and managing care for individuals and communities. The curriculum is rigorous, but the nursing school goes out of its way to provide you with the support you’ll need to succeed. Technology that facilitates experiential learning is incorporated into every aspect of the nursing lesson plans. Care simulation labs enable you to learn clinical fundamentals in a safe environment; from there, you’ll pursue clinical rotations at Winchester Medical Center, Fairfax Hospital and other health care sites in the greater Capital region. The Eleanor Wade Custer School also promotes international learning opportunities in destinations like Ireland, Thailand, Haiti, Switzerland, Guatemala and Tanzania.

Financial Aid: Shenandoah University awards scholarships on the basis of academic performance, need and specific criteria; though the university offers no nursing scholarships per se, nursing students are encouraged to apply for available institutional scholarships and external scholarships. Eligibility for federal and state financial aid will be determined by the information submitted in the FAFSA form.

6. Radford University, Radford

About School of Nursing @ Radford University: When the State Normal and Industrial School at Radford was founded in 1910, its purpose was to provide teachers for the nearby Appalachian region. Its School of Nursing was founded in 1966 to address a severe nursing shortage in that same underserved area. At this set of nursing programs in Virginia, you’ll learn how to deliver culturally sensitive care that meets the evolving needs of this region as well as of world outside it. Instructions follow the Nursing Metaparadigm Concepts model, which defines client, environment, health and nurse as the four foci of successful nursing care.

The School of Nursing is housed in Waldron Hall on the main university campus. The nursing school also maintains a sister site at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, 50 miles east of the university’s main campus. Both nursing school sites have Clinical Simulation Centers equipped with virtual environments that mirror hospital Intensive Care, med/surg, pediatric and obstetric suites; these suites contain high-tech manikins that can be programmed to respond to stressful health situations in lifelike ways. Once they’ve demonstrated proficiency at bedside basics, nursing students go on to clinical rotations at hospitals throughout the Carillon Clinic System and other leading health care providers throughout the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

Financial Aid: While Radford University doesn’t sponsor any institutional scholarships for nursing students per se, the Financial Aid Office maintains a list of external nursing scholarships for which you may qualify. Students who are interested in receiving state and local grants and loans will need to complete and submit a FAFSA form.

7. Liberty University, Lynchburg

About School of Nursing @ Liberty University: Liberty University is one of the largest private evangelical Christian universities in the world, so it’s hardly surprising that this nursing school in VA focuses on nursing as a ministry. You’ll do well at this school if you see nursing as both an occupation and a vocation; the school is committed to training nurses who are committed to Christian ethical standards. The school offers a unique Global Studies Cognate for students who feel called to practice in a mission-related field.

Students participate in experiential learning experiences at the nursing school’s Simulation Center at least two times a week. The Center is a 14,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the DeMoss Learning Center. In addition to the clinical rotations it offers throughout the Lynchburg region, the school also sponsors short-term acute care placements at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem. Additionally, the school sponsors international clinical mission trips to countries like Rwanda and Kenya.

Financial Aid: Undergraduate and graduate nursing students are eligible to apply for Liberty University’s Resident Scholarships. You’ll need to file a FAFSA form to qualify for Liberty University financial aid or for financial aid administered through the university from state and federal sources.

8. Old Dominion University, Norfolk

About School of Nursing @ ODU: The School of Nursing at Old Dominion University is known for graduating nurses with top-notch clinical skills and a commitment to innovative care. The nursing school itself is located approximately 20 miles from the university’s main Norfolk campus at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center in Virginia Beach. The school is the largest in Old Dominion’s College of Health Sciences, so nursing students have chances to interact with colleagues studying physical therapy, dental hygiene, and community and environmental health. Nursing perspectives are highlighted in the school’s quarterly magazine, “ODU Nursing.”

A unique partnership with the Eastern Virginia Medical School and the Sentara Center for Simulation and Immersive Learning permits students to learn common medical procedures in a low-risk environment that’s equipped with manikin-based simulators programmed to respond to critical situations in ways that are similar to how human beings might respond in real life. Students have the opportunity to perfect their skills still further in general, specialty, public, private, military and community health care facilities throughout the Hampton Roads area and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Financial Aid: The university sponsors 13 scholarships specifically for nursing students. Additionally, nursing students are encouraged to take advantage of other institutional or external scholarships whose criteria they meet. State and federal financial aid is available to students whose FAFSA forms indicate need.

9. Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg

About Department of Nursing @ Eastern Mennonite University: Eastern Mennonite University is a faith-based institution of higher learning, and its nursing department reflects the Anabaptist commitment toward helping others. Aspiring nurses are taught to consider a patient’s physical, mental, spiritual and environmental needs as part of their clinical assessment process. The nursing department dubs this emphasis on wholeness and healing the Sacred Covenant Model of Nursing. Class sizes are deliberately kept small so that students can benefit from close mentoring relationships with their instructors.

The university is in the process of renovating its clinical education space, which is called the Lisa Haverstick Memorial Laboratory. With the addition of new simulation manikins and common hospital equipment like beds, IV pumps and oxygen hookups, the space will be able to help nursing students prepare for high-risk clinical events in real life. Once they’re confident in bedside basics, students go on to pursue experiential learning opportunities at clinical sites that include hospitals, primary care settings, community health agencies and other health care settings throughout the Shenandoah Valley.

Financial Aid: EMU offers a number of academic and endowed scholarships for which nursing students may be eligible. The university also disburses federal and state financial aid in accordance with Title IV stipulations. You will need to submit a FAFSA form in order to be considered for this latter category of assistance.

10. Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke

About Department of Nursing @ JCHS: Jefferson College of Health Sciences began its existence as a 40-bed hospital facility in the early years of the 20th century. Because nurses were scarce in southwestern Virginia, the hospital started the Jefferson Hospital School of Nursing. Fast-forward a century, and today, the college offers programs that train students for an assortment of professional health care careers in addition to nursing such as occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, healthcare management and public health. Jefferson College of Health Sciences is in the process of merging with Radford University; that merger should be complete some time in 2020.

In the meantime, nursing students have all the advantages of attending an institution that’s affiliated with Carilion Clinics, one of the largest integrated health care organizations in Virginia and West Virginia. Students will be able to take advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, where Carilion employees hone up on their own practical skills, and they will be able to perform clinical rotations at Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, Carilion Giles Memorial Hospital, Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital and other facilities that operate under the Carilion aegis.

Financial Aid: Nursing students at Jefferson College of Health Sciences are eligible to apply for Admissions Merit Awards, Alumni Graduate Studies Scholarships and Educational Foundation Scholarships. In addition, they may qualify for state and federal financial aid if need is indicated by the information, they submit in their FAFSA forms.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

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