Stethoscope 2018

Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership

Description of Partnership

The Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP) was established in 2007 as a five-year pilot program to facilitate stronger and mutually beneficial partnerships between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Schools of Nursing (SON). The VA Nursing Academy incentivized the development of new models of academic partnerships based on strong and trusting relationships, shared faculty and trainees, innovation in education and patient care, and an emphasis on scholarship and inquiry.

The VA cohort is a group of 8 MUSC nursing students that will have their clinicals for Foundations in Nursing, Medical Surgical Nursing I & II, Mental Health Nursing, and Community Nursing at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. The clinical instructors for this VA cohort will be experienced VA faculty from the nursing academic partnership. Students in this cohort should have a strong interest in veteran centered care. If you are interested in being in this select VA cohort, please complete the simple questionnaire. 

Sign-up: Click here

The Ralph H. Johnson VAMC is one of only 14 VAMC's in the nation offering this 12-month nurse residency program. The Charleston Post Baccalaureate Nursing Residency (PBNR) program, in partnership with Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing, has been developed to help newly graduated nurses transition from entry-level, advanced beginner nurse to competent professional nurse who provides safe, quality care. The Charleston PBNR is a highly competitive 12-month paid ($55,000/year with benefits) nurse residency program that includes didactic and clinical opportunities throughout the entire Medical Center. 


  • Must be a U.S. Citizen
  • Graduated from a CCNE or NLN accredited nursing program with a BSN (3.5 GPA)
  • Have no RN experience
  • Obtain current, unrestricted RN license
  • Proficient in both spoken and written English
  • Pass VA pre-employment medical exam and drug testing

The federally funded nurse residency program at the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (

Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

The VALOR summer internship is a highly competitive paid learning opportunity at VAMCs. 


  • Enrolled in an accredited (NLN or CCNE) Bachelor of Science nursing program with a minimum of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
  • Nursing students must be rising seniors (completed/in the process of completing their junior year)
  • Must work a minimum of 400 hours during summer months and complete an evidence-based project

The student nurse technician program is a highly competitive opportunity for BSN nursing students to gain additional experience in healthcare through the delivery of care to complex and acute care patients. 


  • Enrolled in a baccalaureate nursing program accredited by the National League for Nursing (NLN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Completed at least one foundation/medical-surgical course within their nursing program
  • Must have a current BLS certificate
  • Must work a minimum of 8 hours per month

The Transition to Practice (TTP) program is a 1-year program designed to assist the post-graduate nurse in the transition from entry-level to advanced beginner.


  • LPN's finished with their RN degree (ADN or BSN)
  • No RN experience
  • Identified and hired by facility
  • Hiring for Medical/Surgical unit only
  • Internal candidates are given preference


Sharon Avenot

Sharon Avenot

Sharon Avenot is the VANAP Student Nurse Technician (SNT) Coordinator. She graduated from South Carolina State University with her Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2005. She decided to start a new career path in nursing in 2009. Sharon graduated from Moultrie Technical College where she earned a diploma in nursing and was licensed as an LPN in 2010. She then went on to earn her Associates Degree in Nursing from Fresno City College in 2013 and then her Master of Science in Nursing in Leadership and Management in 2017. She has nine years of clinical practical experience at the bedside and nurse leadership roles. She has been in nurse education for two years and serves as a nurse mentor for new graduate nurses.

Erica Grate-Simmons

Erica Grate-Simmons

Erica Grate-Simmons graduated from MUSC's College of Nursing with her Bachelor's Degree in Nursing in 1996 and earned her Masters of Science in Nursing Education in 2004. She was an adjunct clinical faculty member at MUSC's College of Nursing from 2003 - 2009 and has experience in each of the undergraduate courses. Ms. Grate-Simmons has a strong background in Pediatric Cardiology and Mental Health nursing. Since, June 2009, she has been working at Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center as a member of the VA Nursing Academic Partnership. She also is the coordinator for the VA Learning Opportunity Residency Program (VALOR).

Michele Holderness

Michele Holderness

Dr. Holderness currently leads the VA Nursing Academic Faculty (VANAP) and is the Director for all VANAP programs at Ralph H. Johnson VAMC. She has over 35 years of diverse nursing experience. Her career has provided expertise in out-patient care, geriatrics, nephrology, staff development, neuro/trauma ICU, flight nursing, and academic education. She earned her Licensed Vocational Nursing degree in 1984, her Baccalaureate in Nursing degree in 1994, her Master of Nursing and Master’s in Business/Health Care Management in 2006, and her Doctor of Nursing Practice/Educational Leadership in 2019. Dr. Holderness is a decorated, retired Air Force Officer. She honorably served our Nation for 20 years, with 2 combat deployments and over 500 hours of flight time as an Aeromedical Evacuation Flight Nurse.

Joshua Larsen

Headshot larsen

Joshua Larsen is the VANAP Post Baccalaureate – Registered Nurse Residency (PB-RNR) Coordinator. Prior to receiving his BSN from the MUSC CON in 2013, Josh served in the United States Air Force on active duty for 6 years and in the reserves for 3 years. He was selected as one of the first cohorts for the Post-Baccalaureate Nurse Residents at the RHJ VAMC. Post-residency, he worked full-time as a staff nurse in the mental health unit and earned his MSN in Nursing Education from Charleston Southern University in 2015. He then worked as a staff nurse educator before accepting a position as a full-time Clinical Faculty member of VANAP. Mr. Larsen teaches both Mental and Population Health.

Elizabeth Yarbrough

Elizabeth YarbroughElizabeth Yarbrough is the VANAP Transition to Practice (TTP) Coordinator. She received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science Integrative Physiology from Pacific University in 2008, her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Northern Colorado in 2010, her Master of Science in Nursing from Sacred Heart University in 2015 and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Nursing Practice. Elizabeth has clinical experience in multiple specialties including; critical access, med/surg, wound care, ICU, ER, PACU, OR, and LDRP. She also taught clinical and didactic courses for George Fox University College of Nursing from 2016-2020 in their BSN program. While at George Fox University Elizabeth’s research was focused on international service-learning and cross-cultural collaboration.


Berry S. Anderson, PhD, RN
MUSC, College of Nursing VANAP Academic Program Director

Barry AndersonDr. Berry S. Anderson, PhD, RN, is an Associate Professor in the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing and the Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP) Academic Program Director. He teaches in the undergraduate and graduate nursing program with a focus on mental health and evidence based practice. Dr. Anderson received his BSN from South Carolina State University and his PhD from the MUSC. His specialty areas are brain stimulation treatments for depression and active learning classroom design.