From CNA at 16 to chief quality officer at 29

Published 11:38 am Saturday, May 19, 2018

by Wendy Harrison

There wasn’t much debate as far as Rick McClenny’s decision to go into the healthcare field. Even as a young teenager, he had the desire to help people.

He received further confirmation that he was heading in the direction he wanted after he took the health occupations class during his freshman year at Franklin High School.

“I always thought I would become a physician, but it quickly became clear to me that I wanted to become a nurse,” recalled McClenny. “They spend considerably more time with patients in their moments of need in comparison to doctors.”

Through the high school program, McClenny became a certified nursing assistant at age 16. With the insight of instructors Carole Dixon and Jane Best, he applied for the PDCCC inaugural registered nursing program and was accepted.

The young CNA was also juggling a part-time job as a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home, and participating in church and nursing student activities in the community.

Because McClenny qualified for a Pell grant, and received an honor/scholarship from the Hampton Roads Young Achievers, he was able to finish his degree debt free at PDCCC in 2006.

McClenny had been working as a nurse technician at what was then Obici Hospital in the Surgical, Orthopedics and Pediatrics Unit for about a year and a half. By age 19, he had earned the required credentials and became a registered nurse.

“I continued working on the third floor at Obici on the nursing staff,” he recalled. “After two months, I began working as the charge nurse on weekends.”

McClenny took on even more responsibilities as he served as the 3-11 Unit Coordinator and full time charge nurse in 2010 and chaired the units’ safety council.

He continued his education at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was accepted to the RN-BSN program in 2010. “I transitioned from Sentara Obici Hospital to Sentara Home Care and Hospice in 2011, but I realized that I had a passion for leadership and administrative roles, and working in home health would not promote and foster my leadership aspirations,” he said.

By age 26, McClenny had accepted a job at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia as the director of risk management and patient safety officer just before his graduation at VCU in 2012.

“This position helped me maximize my leadership potential and hone my leadership skills,” he said. McClenny decided to enroll in the Master of Health Administration program at Ohio University, where he graduated in August 2015. Within one month of his graduation, he was asked by the CEO at Southampton Memorial Hospital to join the administrative team as the chief quality officer. He currently still serves in this position.

McClenny touted the education he received at PDCCC as laying a foundation for the success he has experienced in his career.

“Not only is there a shortage of nurses, but this community needs educational programs that will produce skilled and educated workers. The nursing program does just that,” he said. “It prepares graduating nurses to enter the nursing workforce with the education and skills necessary to excel immediately in their new career.”

Reflecting on enrollment as a traditional student at PDCCC, McClenny advises students take at least one year of prerequisites before starting the nursing program. “Coming straight from high school, I had to complete all prerequisites concurrently with the nursing program courses,” he said. “That was quite difficult.”

For more information about the nursing program, contact Carol Griffin at (569-6731) or Dr. Debbie Hartman: (569-6751.)

WENDY HARRISON is the public relations specialist at Paul D. Camp Community College. She can be reached at