Meet Rylie.

Rylie O'Neal
Rylie O'Neal
Bachelor of Science Program, Morgantown Campus

Growing up in Garrett County, Maryland, Rylie O’Neal has always been interested in serving a rural community one day.

As a WVU School of Nursing student, O’Neal learned about Rural Undergraduate Shadowing in Healthcare (RUSH), an experience designed to provide participants with insight into what it is like to practice a health profession in rural West Virginia.

She was one of seven undergraduate participants selected of out roughly 150 applicants. Participants are paired with medical professionals who volunteer for the shadowing experience. O’Neal, who aspires to become a nurse practitioner, was fortunate to be paired with a nurse practitioner in Logan County, Dr. Anitra Ellis.

O’Neal shadowed Dr. Ellis, who is a WVU Nursing alum, for several days during Spring Break 2023. O’Neal spent two days of the experience at Ellis’ practice, where she toured the facility and met with other nurse practitioners. She also experienced a southern West Virginia favorite — breakfast at Tudor’s Biscuit World. Later that week, Dr. Ellis taught a suture lab for roughly 30 interested students at Logan High School.

“She has her week broken into three office visit days, one home health visit day and one community day with interactive activities,” O’Neal said. “It was interesting for me to see.”

Another takeaway for O’Neal was the impactful relationships Ellis has built with her patients.

“She truly knew every single one of her patients. She took the time to sit there and get to know them. Many nurse practitioners are always running, seeing patients back-to-back, but Dr. Ellis scheduled 30 minutes of time for new patients so she could really work through things with them.”

For someone who wants to become a nurse to help people, seeing a nurse practitioner providing such personalized care was especially impactful for O’Neal.

“She was asking how their conditions are affecting them, really working through each issue with them,” O’Neal said. “She tried to resolve the underlying issue instead of just trying other medications.”

When she was younger, O’Neal wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay in her hometown. But as she’s grown up, she can see the benefits of rural life.

“Just seeing how much people truly care about each other, that small town feel where you know everybody and everybody knows you, it’s a nice thing to have that sense of community,” O’Neal said. “I think you have to really think about what matters to you in nursing. If you really want to have a true connection with each patient, and I’m not saying you can’t do that in a hospital setting, but a rural setting allows you to make a big difference in their lives and help make your patients feel heard.”

To learn more about RUSH or other rural health opportunities, visit