This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Rappahannock Community College. RCC graduates form the backbone of our local economy—our healthcare providers, bankers, lawyers, small business owners and trades-people. It’s hard to go through your day without being served by an RCC alum is some way. RCC’s Faces of 50 spotlights our alum, like Katie O’Bier.
Katie O’Bier, BSN, RN is a radiation/oncology nurse in Montross. She’s also a wife and mom to three kids and working on a graduate degree. “I owe so many thanks to RCC for the wonderful start and education I was provided. Without all the educators I encountered there I would not be the nurse I am today,” says O’Bier.
In 2002, right out of Northumberland High School, O’Bier entered Virginia Commonwealth University with the goal of becoming a high school guidance counselor. During her second semester at VCU however, her curiosity led her to enroll in classes outside her planned field of study. In an Introduction to Nursing class, she spent hours at VCU Medical Center shadowing nurses and decided that the field of nursing was actually the path she felt calling her. At this point, two things happened that changed her course even further. Due to the change in her course of study, she would need to back track just to catch up, while at the same time, VCU’s dormitory lotto system rendered her ineligible for on-campus housing, both of which led to her decision to move back home and begin attending classes at Rappahannock Community College.
Back on the Northern Neck, O’Bier began with Anatomy and Physiology taught by Dr. Hallie Ray on RCC’s Warsaw campus. She describes Dr. Ray as, “forever in my mind as an influential teacher,” and says that “completing this class provided a strong foundation of understanding how the body works prior to entering a very challenging program.” She adds, “For that wondrous knowledge base, I thank her immensely.”
Beginning RCC’s nursing program in 2004, O’Bier says she was not quite prepared for the demands of BSN prerequisites and nursing classes and became overwhelmed. Under Catherine Courtney’s instruction and their frequent conversations, O’Bier “gained great respect for her and what she had accomplished in her career as a nurse, a nurse educator, and in public health.” With Courtney’s guidance and reassurance, O’Bier made the difficult decision to withdraw from the program to better prepare herself to re-start at a later date.
Newly married and with a fresh sense of curiosity, she re-entered RCC’s nursing program in the fall of 2005. As do all teachers, Mrs. Elsie Mangano and Mrs. Vickie McKay had a different approach to instruction, and this time O’Bier was successful. Back then, after completing the first year in RCC’s nursing program, nursing students had to finish their last four classes at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond. O’Bier says that Mangano and McKay were very supportive by being readily available via phone and email, and even made time to help with study groups.
In 2007, O’Bier graduated from RCC’s nursing program. Soon after, her first child was born and 10 months after that O’Bier accepted a position as floor nurse at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center (MRMC) on the Renal Unit, where she remained for the next four and a half years. During her time there, she took a PRN (as needed) position at Riverside Tappahannock Hospital in the outpatient infusion center. She says it was here that she “fell in love with oncology nursing.” In 2012 she left MRMC for Riverside to work in both the infusion center and in the ICU. Four years later O’Bier took an opportunity presented to her to be part of the Mary Washington Health Care team and help re-open the radiation oncology center in Montross.
Since then, O’Bier has been involved with RCC’s LPN program as a clinical instructor, graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a BSN and was accepted into graduate school at Old Dominion University to complete her Master’s in the FNP (family nurse practitioner) program.
Coming back home to the Northern Neck and choosing to attend Rappahannock Community College, with small classes and a supportive community, O’Bier followed her heart and in turn found her calling. She says of simultaneously juggling home, family, work and a graduate program, “a lot of prayer and friends and family support,” gets her through.
Contributing writer: Jennifer Rose Bryant, RCC Class of 2020
Rappahannock Community College is celebrating 50 years of breaking down barriers to education in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. Five degrees, 6 certificates, and 26 career and workforce studies programs are offered through RCC, in addition to nearly 40 guaranteed admissions agreements with colleges and universities across the state and region. For more information, visit rappahanock.edu.