During her 40-year career at the University of Virginia, Roy Beazley made significant contributions to nursing education, nursing services, and the nursing profession. She helped to secure full national accreditation for the diploma program, transform the nursing program into a university-based school, and initiate a practical nursing program for African American women. An active professional Beazley served an unprecedented seven years as president of the Virginia Board of Nursing.
"Convincing the all-male University of Virginia faculty and administration that nursing was an intellectual endeavor worthy of a place and an autonomous school in the University community was an extraordinary accomplishment." - Roy C. Beazley Citation from Virginia Pioneer Nurses: A Century to Celebrate Centennial Celebration Program, May 3, 2000 Virginia Nurses Association
Roy C. Beazley, like a number of her peers, began her work as a public school teacher. She completed a two-year program designed to prepare women to teach in elementary schools at the Fredericksburg State Normal School for Women in 1921. Beazley was employed first in the Orange County Public Schools and then moved to Albemarle County where she taught for four years. In 1927, Beazley decided to make a career change and returned to school to begin her education in nursing. She and her sister, Edith, entered the University of Virginia Hospital School of Nursing that year and graduated in 1930. After working for a short time as a private duty nurse, she joined the staff of the University of Virginia Hospital where she held the positions head nurse, night supervisor, and finally assistant director of nurses. She benefited from the influence of Superintendent of Nursing, Josephine McLeod, who was known for her efforts to improve the hospital's nursing services and upgrade the educational standards. McLeod asked Beazley to become an instructor in the program in 1936.
In 1946, Beazley was appointed to the dual position of Director of Nursing Services and Director of Nursing Education for the University Hospital. She was the last person to hold this combined position. Working with Dr. Carlisle Lentz and others she secured full accreditation from the National League of Nursing Education for the university's hospital-based diploma program. An advocate for baccalaureate education for nurses, Beazley sought a university-based nursing education program. In 1949 she presented a plan for a five-year baccalaureate program that included two years of college course work followed by the three-year nursing program. The University of Virginia Board of Visitors agreed to establish an undergraduate nursing school in June of 1949 and the first students were admitted in 1950.The University of Virginia Board of Visitors agreed to establish an undergraduate nursing school in June of 1949 and the first students were admitted in 1950. By 1953 Beazley and others had persuaded the Board of Visitors to create a Department of Nursing Education to oversee the diploma, generic baccalaureate, and the Cabaniss Memorial School of Nursing Education programs. Beazley served as the department's first director but soon relinquished control to Mary Walker Randolph so she could focus on developing the hospital nursing services department.
As head of the hospital's nursing services department Beazley recognized that there was a role for another level of worker in addition to the registered nurse in providing patient care. She was also aware of a need among African American students in the public schools in Charlottesville for a course in the health field. With knowledge of the successful practical nursing programs in Norfolk, Richmond, Staunton and Hampton that were offered jointly by the local school systems and community hospitals Beazley initiated discussions that led to the establishment of the Jackson P. Burley High School-University of Virginia Hospital School of Practical Nursing in 1951.
Beazley was actively professionally on the local, state, and national level. She was active in the District Nurses Association and the Charlottesville League for Nursing and she served on various committees of both the Virginia League for Nursing and the Virginia Nurses Association. Beazley was also a member of the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, and the National League for Nursing. In 1951, Governor John S. Battle appointed her to the first of two five-year terms on the Virginia Board of Nursing. She served as the president of the Board from 1954 through 1960. During her tenure as President, she participated in meetings related to the beginning of the associate degree program when two of the original programs included in the pilot project were located in Virginia. Under Beazley's leadership, the Board approved a significant number of nursing and practical nursing programs, heard and resolved an increasing number of cases of involving allegations of chemical dependency against licensees, and administered an increasing number of licensing examinations. Beazley was one of the Board of Nursing members that met regularly with the representatives of the Medical Society of Virginia to discuss a variety of questions and items of common interest.
Beazley has been honored by her peers, the Virginia Nurses Association and the University of Virginia. Beazley was the first woman to be named Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia. She was a strong supporter of the University of Virginia School of Nursing Alumni Association. The school established the Roy C. Beazley Undergraduate Merit Scholarship in her honor. In 1985, the Alumni Association presented its Distinguished Nursing Alumnae Award to her posthumously. The Virginia Nurses Association first honored Beazley with its most prestigious award, the Nancy Vance Pin Award in 1960 and subsequently named her one of fifty Pioneer Nurses in Virginia during its Centennial Celebration in 2000.