BSU Nursing Alum Develops Center of Excellence Training Program at Carillion Clinic/Roanoke

BSU Alum Charles Bullins Cardiothoracic Surgery Nursing Advanced Practice Consultant at Carillion Clinic in Roanoke.

When Charles Bullins accepted a “Forty Under Forty” award at the Virginia Nursing Foundation’s Annual Gala, it represented a major milestone in the career of the Wyoming East High School and Bluefield State University graduate. 

Bullins is a Cardiothoracic Surgery Nursing Advanced Practice Consultant at Carillion Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia. He has also developed a Center of Excellence training program focused on improving cardiac arrest outcomes after open-heart surgery.  The retirement of one of his mentors within the Clinic’s Cardiovascular Institute opened the opportunity for Bullins to, in his words, “carve out my own role–the Advanced Practice Consultant.”

He explained, “I created a new position that is a blend between nurse practitioner who also works critical care and truly collaborates with physicians, nurses, and surgeons.  I was able to break down some of the “silos” within our specialties, open channels of communication, and, as a result, improve patient care.”

“I transferred to Bluefield State after one year of college at another institution,” he said.  “Several of my friends were nurses, and they were always talking about how fulfilling the nursing profession is.”  After entering the Associate Degree Nursing program at Bluefield State in 2005, Bullins also started working at the former St. Luke’s Hospital. “At Bluefield State, I was able to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing, then get a job while I could work toward a bachelor’s degree.”  He received his A.S. Nursing degree in 2007, graduating from the institution’s Baccalaureate Nursing program in 2009. 

“At the hospital, I got a first-hand look at the vital role nursing held in patient care, he explained. “My great uncle suffered a heart attack while I was in the nursing program, and that influenced me to focus on cardiothoracic nursing.”

“After I entered the nursing program at Bluefield State, there were days when I felt overwhelmed.”  He expressed appreciation to current and former BSU nursing faculty for their guidance, support, and for their insistence on maintaining exceptionally high standards.  “As a student, you need those one-on-one conversations with nursing faculty.  At Bluefield State, I received that—my nursing faculty mentored me, challenged me, and inspired me.”   

Bullins has also developed a Center for Excellence training program.  “We have integrated evidence-based standards for taking care of patients after cardiac surgery,” he explained. 

Citing advice he received from Cindy Zellefrow, a member of The Ohio State University School of Nursing, he tells students who are entering nursing school to “Dream BIG and in color!” 

“Graduating from the nursing programs at Bluefield State was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I am thankful every day for the fundamental knowledge, skill, and drive I received there,” he summarized.