Central Virginia Nurse of the Year: Nicole McCurrach

Nicole McCurrach receives her RHHD Nurse of the Year award.
Nicole McCurrach and her husband were at the Bryan Park playground with their two daughters—aged five and seven—on a Saturday morning when she told him she wanted to become a nurse. She had worked corporate jobs and spent time at home with the girls. She was 39 and ready for a change.

On her younger daughter’s eighteenth birthday, Nicole learned she’d been named both the 2024 RHHD Nurse of the Year and the VDH Central Region Nurse of the Year. The recognition is a testament to a career that’s been full of learning, rising to meet unexpected challenges, and a deep commitment to others.

Nicole chose nursing after watching people in the profession go above and beyond for their patients. Nicole’s mom spent a lot of time in the hospital, and she watched nurses carve out extra hours to keep her company. As an adult, she experienced that care firsthand during a difficult pregnancy. “I knew they were busy, but most of these nurses were just very selfless.”

Shuryl Thompson, Nicole’s supervisor at RHHD’s Henrico East location, says this commitment to patients is now a hallmark of Nicole’s own nursing work: “She is one of the most loyal and conscientious nurses I have ever met. She is detail-oriented and especially patient-oriented at all times.” Shuryl recalls a moment where a client needed some extra emotional support during an injection—Nicole jumped right in to distract and uplift the patient, who asks for Nicole anytime she returns to the clinic now!

With an estimated 12,000 to 13,000 vaccinations under her belt, Nicole says she’s learned how to be in the moment with patients who might be anxious or concerned about a shot: “I try to acknowledge that they might be scared and it’s normal to be scared. And I make sure they’re know they’re receiving protection—sometimes lifelong—today!” She’s immunized infants during an early role at a newborn nursery, and as a home healthcare worker, she provided vaccines to folks over 100.

This wide range of experience made Nicole an especially vital RHHD team member during COVID-19 vaccination. Her communication skills made patients feel at ease and helped her teach organizations about the importance of vaccination. During one clinic, a woman who’d received her first dose with Nicole asked to return to her table: “They routed her to me—she gave me this big hug and a pair of earrings that I still wear. After that second vaccine did its thing, she was planning on visiting her twin sister in North Carolina who was immunocompromised, and they hadn’t been able to see each other at all during COVID.”

Public Health Nurse Supervisor Joanna Cirillo says that Nicole’s ability to make clients feel comfortable goes hand-in-hand with her willingness to serve in different areas of the health department: “Nicole exemplifies the versatility, dedication and flexibility of a public health nurse. Recently I’ve watched Nicole embrace the role of following children with elevated blood lead levels and making sure they get the appropriate follow up and nutritional guidance. She embraces new challenges with dedication and passion!”

Nicole’s work with lead cases and, previously, with rabies cases, have her hitting the books. In both areas, Nicole has to communicate complex and precise health information to patients. Rabies exposure, for example, has to be managed with immediate immunoglobulin and then a cycle of vaccines that have to take place in a precise order. Whatever field she’s working in, Nicole keeps her focus on relationship-building: “It’s really amazing that for years now, nursing is the number one trusted profession. I try to live by that every day so that when people come to me, they feel like they’re in good hands.”

Ahead of National Nurses Week, Nicole encourages those thinking about a career in nursing to make sure they’re prepared for the emotional and professional demands of the job: “You really have to love people, and your first response needs to be to jump in and help whenever and wherever needed.” She sees this spirit of service in the commitment of her RHHD Nursing team: “we could not do what we do without each other!”

Congratulations to Nicole on this well-deserved honor!