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RappCE: Filling a Community’s Need for Healthcare Training

RappCE: Filling a Community’s Need for Healthcare Training

RappCE (Rappahannock Center for Education) CEO Doug Schiffman has always noticed a need in his county. Through his work in public education, entrepreneurship, and with local non-profits, he knows the area well. Rappahannock County, Virginia is a small, tight-knit community home to roughly 7,000 residents.

“Healthcare has always been a significant deficit in Rappahannock County. We don’t have a hospital, walk-in clinic, urgent care, or pharmacy. Also, our population is somewhat older than the average population of Virginia.”

In 2015, Schiffman began meeting with a group of nurses and other healthcare representatives in hopes of finding a way to fill the void.

“The biggest need, at that time, seemed to be in-home healthcare workers. These meetings evolved into the idea of creating our own training and learning program to do it ourselves. We contacted the board of nursing, got approved, and ultimately got it started.”

RappU, now known as RappCE, got started thanks to this teamwork and the help of several local donors and organizations. Namely, the PATH Foundation and the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, among others. Schiffman says in order to have been ready to fulfill this need in their community, they needed a partner and some additional help.

“We got in touch with folks from Valley Health and made a pitch for why we felt having this healthcare training program would be a good thing to do for adults and high school students. This went all the way to Mark Merrill, Valley Health’s CEO at the time, and he very much liked the idea. The next thing I know, Valley Health committed $25,000 over a two year period. We never could have done it without the financial help and credibility that partnering with Valley Health has given us.”

Valley Health has provided X-ray equipment for the upcoming radiologic technology license program, wheelchairs, and surplus medical supplies for the medical assistance program.

RappCE now provides training toward certification in several medical fields, including Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), medical coding and billing. The organization also partners with Rappahannock High School to provide healthcare training to their students.

“It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” Schiffman says while describing their first year. “We told our first group of adults, maybe 10 or 12, they were taking a chance and they understood that. Seventy-five percent of them passed their nurse aide exam on the first try and the rest on their second try. So we kept getting better and better as time went on.”

Lindsey Sonnett, a Rappahannock County native, serves as RappCE’s Director of Admissions and Development. She grew up with many of the students who have taken part in RappCE. She finds the opportunity to steward them through the program rewarding.

“I feel as though I’m filling this really important need in our community. For a lot of our students, this is their first shot a career. It’s very satisfying to see someone go from a minimum wage job to working in a healthcare facility. Our students are absolutely lovely and incredibly motivated. I’m impressed by them daily.”

Like many classrooms across the country, RappCE had to pivot quickly last March to online learning at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve made it work,” Sonnett says. “It was challenging to move to Zoom and keep them going, but they did it. A lot of our students have expressed many times that they prefer being in the classroom. So we’ve intentionally kept our class sizes really small.”

As of November 2020, there are approximately 20 adults taking part in RappCE, along with 20 students in programs at Rappahannock High School. In addition to classroom training, RappCE is able to provide students with resume and job interview prep. They also share information with students on available jobs across the region.

“Our goal is to train people to work in healthcare,” Schiffman adds. “We try to bring them as many different types of programs as we can. Our mission is to train people to be able to be employable with skills that match what the needs are in the greater community. We like to let everybody into our program regardless of their ability to pay. So far, we have never turned away a student. Donations are always welcome and can go a long way in helping a student.”

Valley Health continues to support RappCE, and numerous other regional organizations, through Community Health Impact Grants. These grants, along with other collaborative efforts, aim to positively impact the health, welfare and quality of life of our communities. Primary care is also available to the Rappahannock County region at Valley Health Page Memorial Hospital Family Medicine in Washington, VA. For more information about supporting and/or enrolling at RappCE, visit, call their Sperryville, VA office (540-987-0513) or email