First apprentice class of 2024 graduates

Seven students graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides during a ceremony Feb. 16 at the Employment, Education and Enrichment (EEE) Center. It was the first graduating class of 2024 for the earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program.

The students spent nearly six weeks in the classroom and in clinical skills labs at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hampton. They learn 22 skills, take 14 tests and get hands-on experience working with patients. The apprenticeship program also covers the cost of the state certification exam to be CNAs.

Friends, family members and VHS team members from corporate and Coliseum attended the graduation ceremony. Instructor Nora Gillespie, RN, and Director of Education Princess Henderson, BSN, RN, gave remarks as each graduate received their certificates. Instructor Tracy Williams, BSN, RN, handed grads their updated name badges to indicate they are now Nurse Aides.

The graduates – Iliana Apodaca, Ann Marie Morris Bellamy, Traci Jones (valedictorian), Tatyonna Gardner, Trinity Osborne, Tyra Stevenson and Moesha Williams (salutatorian) – will join the teams at Coliseum, James River and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.

“It takes a special person to work with the elderly,” Nora said during the ceremony.

The graduates

Princess told the class it was “truly a good journey” with them. She and Nora showered the graduates with praise for their heart, compassion and ability to work together as a team.

Nora shared Iliana was “attentive, quiet and willing to the extra mile.” Princess added she was gentle with the residents.

Princess awarded Ann Marie the Champion Award for her hard work throughout the course of the class. She was recommended for the class by Coliseum Director of Nursing Yolanda Carnegie-Chambers, who was in the audience. “She would say she loved taking care of older people,” Nora said. Ann Marie plans to attend nursing school.

“Your heart shines,” Nora said of Tatyonna. Princess added her head was “always in the game.”

Trinity also is eyeing nursing school. She is determined, Princess said, and inspired by her grandparents.

“You do it well,” Nora told Tyra. Princess called her “determined, strong-willed and strong.” The former personal care aide learned to provide a gentler touch during clinicals.

Salutatorian Moesha “did a wonderful job,” Princess said, adding the experience is a perfect stepping stone for a nursing career.

Valedictorian

Valedictorian Traci Jones and Director of Education Princess Henderson.
Valedictorian Traci Jones and Director of Education Princess Henderson.

Traci also was referred to the class by the team at Coliseum. She was first licensed as a CNA in 1995 and needed to refresh her credentials. She told her instructors this is her calling, Princess said.

Princess read Traci’s valedictorian speech.

“I am filled with immense pride and gratitude … our journey in nursing has been nothing short of challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. … Through it all we have grown not only as healthcare professionals but also as compassionate individuals committed to making a difference in the lives of others. …,” she said.

“As we embark on our next chapter of our journey … let us carry with us with us the values instilled in us during our time here: compassion, empathy and commitment to lifelong learning. Let us continue to strive for excellence in everything we do knowing our dedication has the power to positively impact the lives of countless individuals.”

Princess helps Traci deliver her valedictorian remarks to her classmates and ceremony attendees.
Princess helps Traci deliver her valedictorian remarks to her classmates and ceremony attendees.

What’s next

The students will participate in review sessions before taking their state certification exams.

“We care about you as people; we want you to succeed,” Nora told the graduates.

Princess opened the ceremony by remarking, “Today you’re a CNA, tomorrow an RN. Keep the compassion you have for caring for people.”

Upcoming classes

Applications are closed for the next class, which starts March 4 at the EEE. Students of the Gloucester class graduate Feb. 29 at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Applications for the next Gloucester class, which is April 22-May 30, open the end of February. The next Peninsula class will accept applications this spring for its April 29-June 6 session.

Learn more and apply at vahs.com/apprenticeship.

VHS spotlights historic nurse training programs on Virginia Peninsula for Black History Month

The Hampton Roads community has been the foundation for Virginia Health Services for more than 60 years. During Black History Month, we are sharing the importance of Black community leaders and institutions that shaped and continue to shape the healthcare landscape.

In 2022, the theme of Black History Month, according to one of its founding group members The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), was health and wellness. The organization highlighted the importance of healthcare for African Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also addressed the historic exclusion of Black individuals from hospitals and clinics across the country before integration. (This year’s theme is African Americans and the Arts.)

The history of Hampton and Newport News reflects those struggles throughout the country. Virginia Health Services is spotlighting two programs on the Virginia Peninsula that trained Black nurses and doctors when those individuals could not find integrated programs.

VHS continues the tradition of educating healthcare professionals with our earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program that graduates Care Assistants to Nurse Aides and covers the cost of the state certification exam to be a CNA.

Our research on early training programs was done in conjunction with the Hampton History Museum, which provides programming and exhibits of the Peninsula’s rich history.

Whittaker Hospital

Facade of Whittaker Memorial Hospital
Whittaker Memorial Hospital was established in 1908 to serve Newport News’ Black community. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Whittaker Memorial Hospital was founded in Newport News in 1908 by two Black physicians, Walter T. Foreman and Robert L. Whittaker, to provide quality care to the city’s growing African American population.

The nurse training school was established in 1915, a year after receiving its charter. It closed in 1932, but not before graduating 112 Black nurses.

The hospital was renamed Newport News General in 1985 and closed in 1997.

According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Whittaker “is one of a few African American hospitals in the U.S. built and designed by African American physicians and architects.”

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. It was refurbished and opened as apartments at Whittaker Place in 2019.

HU School of Nursing

The nursing program at Hampton University was founded in 1891 as the Hampton Training School for Nurses, on the campus of (then) Hampton Institute.

It was one of the earliest nursing programs open to Black nursing students in the country, driven by Alice Bacon. The school was commonly known as Dixie Hospital. Its first graduate was Anna DeCosta Banks.

The Hampton University program is still going strong after more than 125 years. It claims it is the “oldest continuous baccalaureate nursing program” in Virginia. The School of Nursing developed to also offer master’s (accredited 1979) and PhD (1999) programs, and in 2017 was granted full Board of Nursing approval for another 10 years.

Virginia Health Services hosts HU’s CNA class clinicals in evenings at our facilities. The partnership began in fall 2022.

Diverse workforce foundation of VHS

Virginia Health Services, which was established in 1963, is thankful to serve a community so rich in history and is proud to be a part of its growth as we help individuals live their best life. We take pride in providing quality healthcare through our independent and assisted living communities, nursing and rehabilitation centers, and our home health care, outpatient rehab and hospice services.

We commit to investing in our team members. Growing a diverse and productive workforce is at the foundation of Virginia Health Services’ mission, vision and values.

VHS offers training programs to all looking to enter healthcare through our Nurse Aide earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program. Our team offers assistance in finding continuing nursing education programs and scholarships to team members who want to develop their nursing careers.

Call our team yours and apply today at vahs.com/careers.

Meet our recreational therapy team during Activity Professionals Week

We are celebrating National Activity Professionals Week (Jan. 22-26) by spotlighting our Activity Directors at Virginia Health Services senior living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers.

Activity directors run recreation programs that are resident-focused. Events and activities cater to residents’ tastes and activity directors receive residents’ input. The programs help residents exercise their cognitive, sensory and motor skills, and provide social settings for engagement multiple times a day.

Activity directors also drive employee engagement within their communities, helping with team-centered events and activities to bolster morale and provide stress relief.

It’s not just fun and games! As our Activity Directors describe in their Q&As below, they are an integral part of care planning for residents, with charting and assessments as part of their daily duties.

Meet our Activity Directors:

The Hamilton Assisted Living

Kirstie Saunders | Activity Director

The Hamilton activity director Kirstie Saunders.
Hamilton activity director Kirstie Saunders.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 2 years in March.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? As a teen I attended church camp in Lynchburg. We had to choose somewhere to volunteer in the community and I chose the nursing home and loved it! I also have family in healthcare who helped guide me along the way and support me in my career.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I like to help make it feel like home. I listen to resident and team ideas and brainstorm to make things come to life. The motto “Love where you live and love where you work” is what I strive for, both for the residents and our team.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? That I drive the bus!

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? First and foremost, the residents. They enjoy trying new things so I enjoy brainstorming with other professionals, finding ideas from Pinterest and Instagram, and implementing them into our community.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? Our residents enjoy quilting class, trips (including virtual), tea parties and live entertainment.

Personal details: I have been married for 19 years and have a son and two Australian Shepard dogs. I enjoy boating, beaching and fishing with my family.


The Huntington Assisted Living

Devyn Hotop | Activity Director

The Huntington activity director Devyn Hotop.
Huntington activity director Devyn Hotop.

Years with Virginia Health Services: About two years. (I started as a CNA with VHS from the apprenticeship program.)

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? During my time as a CAN, one of my favorite things to do was watch the residents engage in the various activities that were provided. I loved seeing the residents happy and I knew this position would be the perfect way to express my creativity while helping others!

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I am always helping out staff members whenever I can! I also make sure the residents know that I am here for them, and that my office is always open if they just want to hang out or want someone to talk to. 

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The versatility of the job. I drive the bus, do manicures, lead exercises, referee games, teach crafts, host socials. There is a lot that goes into this job.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? I rely on Pinterest and Facebook groups to find inspiration. I am always finding unique and fun things to do with the residents. I also bring up activity ideas to residents to get their opinion on it, and I let them have the opportunity to make their own suggestions.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? They love activities that keep their minds busy. Bingo is the most popular, and they recently have taken to new card games I have introduced to them.

Personal details: I like to stay busy inside and outside of work! In my free time I like to thrift, paint, fish and visit parks with my adorable (and very spoiled) Australian Shepherd.


Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Shawntez Hill | Activity Director

Coliseum activity director Shawn Hill.
Coliseum activity director Shawn Hill.

I have been the activity director at Coliseum since June 2023, and I have been with VHS for two years starting in the CNA apprenticeship program. I always had a great passion for helping seniors because I started out in home health care in 2016 and worked with private clients over the years. That’s what make me join the team as a CNA in April 2022. I became the Apprentice of the Year and joined the recreational therapy team in November 2022.

We have a good time at Coliseum! I believe if you have breath and strength in your body, that’s all that counts! I always tell our residents to look at each day as if it’s a party and they love it. It keeps them going with a smile on their face. The most important activity is Bingo, they take that game very seriously and you better have their prize at the end or you won’t hear the end. It’s just a blessing to see how little things can make them happy.

Other things I do outside of work is an annual Back to School Drive (for the past seven years) and a holiday help drive at Christmas to help families in need. Thanks to Virginia Health Services for helping me the last two years; I greatly appreciate it. My goal is to let each resident live their best life and be happy with no regrets.

Aida Davila | Assistant Activity Director

Coliseum assistant activity director Aida Davila
Coliseum assistant activity director Aida Davila

I started my career as a recreation therapy assistant/supervisor at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Maryland, where I worked for 6.5 years before transferring to front desk security. When I moved to Virginia to live with my mother younger sister passed away, recreation therapy was the career path I wanted to continue. I enjoy providing activities for the residents and fellow team members. I love to see the smiles on my residents’ faces when they enjoy a program. Our residents at Coliseum really enjoy the parties Shawn and I throw, trivia and “you be the judge.” It exercises their minds and often triggers nostalgic memories.


James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Shawn Hanberry | Activity Director

James River activity director Shawn Hanberry.
James River activity director Shawn Hanberry.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 7 years, 9 months.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? My mother, a retired LPN who worked in long-term care for 35 years, encouraged me and I have been connected to it since my years of volunteering at Bayside of Poquoson and Dominion Village of Poquoson.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? Through respect, high energy and positive attitude.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The amount of charting that includes progress notes, care plans, participation records and various assessments.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? My residents and their ideas.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? Our residents enjoy Bingo, Jackpot, Car Racing, Main Street Market and parties.

Personal details: I am a native of the Peninsula, mainly in Poquoson where I grew up and currently live. I enjoy road trips, trying new foods and visiting historical places and towns.


Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Amber Watson | Activity Director

Lancashire activity director Amber Watson.
Lancashire activity director Amber Watson.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year, 3 months.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I have always had a big heart for the elderly. I became a CNA and worked private cases and in nursing homes for six years until the pandemic. At that time, I decided to stay home with my kids. When my kids returned to school, I returned to work, searching for activity director openings. I thought, “how cool and fun it would be to do fun things with the aging population and keep them active?”

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I love supporting my Team Members! I always lend a hand to my work family to help in any way, shape or form.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The amount of paperwork and daily charting.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? I have five kids and they love to help with activity ideas for the Residents. I also get ideas from activity connection, Pinterest, and from the Residents themselves.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? My residents are very hands on! Any activity that involves everyone having a good time, enjoying themselves, best believe they will be there. They really love arts and crafts, and socials.

Personal details: I am 31 years old. My husband and I have been together for almost 15 years and we have five beautiful kids (three girls and two boys, ages 2, 6, 8, 11 and 14). We have a 1-year old lab named Milo, who keeps us on our toes. We have lived in the Topping area for almost two years.


The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Jamel DeCosta | Activity Director

The Newport activity director Jamel DeCosta

Years with Virginia Health Services: 3 years.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I’ve always enjoyed the elderly. I guess it’s due to being raised by my grandmother.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? Pitching in where ever needed.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The relationships between the staff and residents.

What types of activities do your residents enjoy most? Bingo, painting and cornhole.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Friends and family, especially my 10-year-old grandson.

Personal details: I am a mother of two and grandmother of four. I enjoy entertaining, crafting, decorating and shopping.


Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Erica Donaldson | Activity Director

Northampton activity director Erica Donaldson started the position this month. She was a CNA at Northampton for 23 years.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 23 years (as a CNA until this transition to activity director in January).

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? This is something different after my years as a CNA and an opportunity to challenge myself.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? I bring new ideas to the table.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? More energetic to the facility for residents and team members.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From former activity director Charlene Craig (now a Resident Navigator at Northampton), other team members and Pinterest.

What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo, Get Fit class, and church.

Personal details: I have two sons (one who lives in Pittsburgh). I am a Steelers fan! I have four grandchildren and a new person in my life. I’m staying positive and enjoying life!


Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Julie Boothe | Activity Director

Walter Reed activity director Julie Boothe
Walter Reed activity director Julie Boothe.

I have been in the activity field for 29 years and had the pleasure of spending those years with Virginia Health Services. I accepted a job after spending three years volunteering with a local elementary school. Thanks to having a caring soul, I feel right in to this career. I love outdoor activities of most kinds and taking care of my animals and pets at home. I am truly blessed to have my husband for 43 years, sons, daughter, mother, sisters, grandchildren and friends. They all mean the world to me.

Walter Reed has a fantastic volunteer base and community that helps meet the needs of our residents through the activity department. We provide daily activities for the residents and make sure they have the materials they need for independent activities. Our residents tell us what they like to do and we make it happen. This includes entertainment coming into the facility and us going out in the community.  We love all our volunteers. They are very special people.

Activity directors work 24/7. Many times, we have to drop what they are doing to attend to something else and pick up where we left off later. We definitely have to multitask and be very organized. A big part of the job is finding activities (which can pop in your head any time of the day), scheduling activities, individualizing a program for each resident and being there to listen when need be. A big thanks to my assistants for all their hard work and dedication. Activity and other staff build tight bonds with residents and care for them dearly.

Activity ideas come from a lot of places. The resident requests are the first, then we use Internet, TV, magazines and imagination. Activities are provided to give them the opportunity to have fun, laugh, feel good and fill their phyco-social needs. They love bingo, pet therapy, Wii games, church, bible studies, crafts, music, in the kitchen, outings and more. There is nothing like dunking your administrator in a dunk booth.  The residents had a blast.  Thank you for participating, Bryant. We have a great team here.

On a personal note, I wish to thanks all the staff, volunteers, and VHS growing with me for year to year. It takes a team to meet the needs of over 100 people. Thank you for your understanding, caring and support. Working here is not a job but an extended family.

Jennifer Caldwell | Assistant Activity Director

Walter Reed assistant activity director Jennifer Caldwell.
Walter Reed assistant activity director Jennifer Caldwell.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I’ve always enjoyed the elderly, and being able to plan activities. Putting a smile on residents’ faces daily is something I knew I would be good at.

How do you support the community’s team and Residents?  By always being attentive to my residents and team.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The relationships between the residents and staff.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Pinterest and Residents. I am always asking residents for suggestions – it might be something we have done before that they enjoyed or something new they want to do.

What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo, music and any food activity. 

Personal details: I enjoy being with family, friends and going on vacations. I love going on cruises.

Stephanie Williams | Assistant Activity Director (Memory Care)

Walter Reed assistant activity director for memory care Stephanie Williams.
Walter Reed assistant activity director for memory care Stephanie Williams.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year, 9 months.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I started doing activities voluntarily at my previous job and thoroughly enjoyed working with the residents and seeing them enjoy it also.

How do you support the community’s team and Residents? I help anyway I can that they need.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Working on a memory care unit you have a wide range of cognitive abilities to balance out, especially to offer an activity that is inclusive. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with somebody with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and really it’s just a little patience and getting to see what their interests are.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Research but also seeing what they like to do or new things that work. I can put together different activities based on those.

What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? They like the physical activities but they also like to read and love to listen to music, and dance and sing.

Personal details: I enjoy coming in and spending the day with my residents every day. Outside of the busy work day I spend a lot of time with my family and three animals.


York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Mary Garrity | Activity Director

York activity director Mary Garrity
York activity director Mary Garrity.

Years with Virginia Health Services: 7 years (in March).

What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? The elderly always had a place in my heart. I started my career at a senior center 20-plus years ago and have worked in several long-term facilities. I love to see the Residents happy and smiling, I love to challenge the residents with word games and trivia, and I love to see the residents dancing and singing.

How do you support the center’s team and residents? I support the team by helping wherever I can, having dress-down days, games and contests for the staff and Residents. We have become family and do whatever they need or want.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Of all the many hats we wear, we help by serving meals, getting water for the residents, being a good listener … all the little things that residents need, including decorating for Christmas and other holidays.

Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From the residents’ likes and dislikes. Every facility is different and has different cultures. I use online resources like Activity Connection and share ideas with other activity professionals.

Personal details: I love going to the beach, reading, interior decorating and furniture restoration.


The Arbors Independent Living

Quianna | Life Enrichment Director

Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year.

What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I was always interested in being around seniors. It wasn’t until two years ago while I was in California, I was filling in for our activity director and I just thought her job was so fun and exciting. Being able to plan and execute daily activities for residents was definitely something I knew I would be great at doing.

How do you support the community’s team and residents? By always being attentive to my team and residents, and always being a team player.

Where do you find ideas/inspirations for activities? First and foremost, from my residents. If you just sit and talk with them for a little, you will discover a lot from them. I also get inspirations from Facebook groups and Pinterest.

What type of activities do your residents enjoy the most? My residents really enjoy crafting, painting, trivia and Bingo!

Personal details: Being an activity director and being able to implement programs on the calendar is more than just that. I am up close and personal with the residents. They confide in me and they count on me to do a great job in making their lives more enjoyable and fun. The bonds that I have created while being in this position is more than I could ask for. The smiles and joy on my residents’ faces after a program, the “thank you” and the “great job Quianna” makes everything I do worth it.


Help the team

Our activity directors are always in need of volunteers to assist with events and activities or provide entertainment and social interaction. Visit vahs.com to submit a request to volunteer.

Recruiting Roadshow returns in 2024

Virginia Health Services recruiter Colleen Reynolds resumes her Recruiting Roadshow of our nursing and rehabilitation centers in January. The Roadshow will be quarterly, with editions in January, April, July and October 2024.

The Recruiting Roadshow will give applicants a chance to apply and interview in person at our locations in Newport News, Hampton, York County, Gloucester and Kilmarnock. Job candidates can see our centers and get a feel for where they are applying.

“I want to make myself more visible to team members and applicants in each building,” Colleen says.

The increased presence should better support new hires and identify team needs.

Schedule

January dates:

  • York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Hamilton Assisted Living, 9 a.m.-noon Monday, Jan. 22.
  • Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22.
  • James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23.
  • The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Huntington Assisted Living, 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday, Jan. 24.
  • Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24.
  • Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 9 a.m.-noon Thursday, Jan. 25.
  • Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25.

How to be a successful applicant

Colleen shared ways to stand out among job applicants to Virginia Health Services. She sees hundreds of applications and conducts about 15 phone interviews a day. Make yourself standout.

“I’ll take a chance on people for a phone interview if the application looks like a professional effort was made. If you’re not making the effort in the application, hard to think you’ll put an effort into the work. Put your best foot forward to get to the interview process and sell yourself,” Colleen says.

Application tips

  • Complete all application questions.
  • Spelling and grammar should be correct.
  • Create a professional email address to use when applying. Use your correct contact information so you are reachable.
  • Have a professional resume (regardless of work history).
  • List any transferable skills
  • Be professional (avoid personal details)
  • List work experience
    • For those with limited or no work history, such as high school students, please list any part-time work experience or have an objective statement with a career goal listed. Be sure to include school and graduation date.

How to successfully interview by phone

  • Research Virginia Health Services (information is easily accessible at vahs.com). Colleen says, “Tell me why you want to work for VHS and what you know. Take the time to visit the website. I always ask, ‘why do you want to work for Virginia Health Services?’”
  • Ask questions about the job and company.
  • Read the job description so you can best speak to how your qualities and skills make you the right fit for the job to which you are applying. Talk up your skills – hard (like clinicals) or soft (such as organization and time management).
  • Be on time. Answer the phone. Give advance notice if possible to cancel. “Life happens, but keep it at a professional level at all times,” Colleen says.
  • Know your resume. Clarify when you were licensed. Colleen says, “Know your own work history and those important dates.”
  • Send a thank you message to follow up to everyone you spoke to.

How to successfully interview in person

  • Be professional.
  • Be on time.
  • Dress business casual for an in-person or virtual interview.
  • Be prepared. Know your work history.
  • Present yourself in a professional way.
  • Be prepared with questions. Ask about the position or VHS. “You have to make sure it’s a good fit for you the same as we need to make sure it’s a good fit for the company. … You have to make sure you know where you’re going,” Colleen says. (This applies to phone interviews as well.)
  • Send a thank you message to follow up.

“Everyone serves a purpose on the team,” Colleen says. “Tell me how you think you’ll fit in the organization and what you bring to the team.”

Join our team

Explore career paths with Virginia Health Services and apply online at vahs.com/careers.

VHS Chief Strategy Officer featured in Home Health Care News

Virginia Health Services Chief Strategy Officer Eric Gommel recently spoke on a panel at the Aging Media Network’s Continuum Conference in Washington, D.C. The panel, “Acuity Creep Across the Continuum: Adapting to Shifting Patient and Resident Profiles,” was covered in a news story by Home Health Care News and published Jan. 5 online.

Gommel and his fellow panelists, Michael Johnson, President of Hospice & Home Health BAYADA Home Health Care, and Adam Perry of the John Hartford Foundation Health and Aging Policy Fellows Program, discussed the increasing medical complexity and frailty of the seniors accessing care within the continuum.

He said staff education and training are key in addressing “acuity creep.”

“You have to invest in your team, and that means making sure they’re not turning over and you’re spending time preparing them for these changes,” he said.

Read “Home Health Agencies Grapple With ‘Acuity Creep’ As Patient Needs Become More Complex” by Patrick Filbin on Home Health Care News.

Dialysis Den at Coliseum highlighted by iAdvance Senior Care

An article based on an interview with Virginia Health Services President and CEO Mark Klyczek was published by iAdvance Senior Care on Dec. 12, 2023.

The article highlights the benefits of the Dialysis Den at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hampton. The Den is run in partnership with DaVita Kidney Care and opened in June 2023.

It also outlines the partnership between VHS and DaVita in the buildout of the Den and lessons learned.

Read the article.

Six apprentices graduate to Nurse Aides in December 2023 cohort

Virginia Health Services celebrated its final apprentice class of 2023 during a graduation ceremony Friday, Dec. 8 at the Employment, Enrichment and Education (EEE) Center in Port Warwick.

The earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program graduates Care Assistants to Nurse Aides and covers the cost of the state certification exam to be a CNA. The program includes six weeks of class work and clinical skills labs, in addition to on-the-floor experience at VHS nursing and rehabilitation centers.

The graduates – Mahojahnae Cofield, Morgan Combs, Javonni James, Ebony Robertson, Alicia Smith and Sharen Van Boeckel – are now VHS team members. They will work at Northampton and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.

Friends and family gathered to celebrate the apprentices’ accomplishments and enjoyed light refreshments following the ceremony.

The six graduates with their instructors at the EEE
The graduates with their instructors Princess, Nora and Tracy.

The ceremony

Instructor Nora Gillespie, RN, calls the class “CNA boot camp.” The students are presented 700 slides, take 14 tests and learn 22 skills. They also work on the floor at VHS nursing facilities in the evenings and on some weekends.

“They evolved through class,” she said. “Their personalities really came out.”

Director of Education Princess Henderson, RN, BSN, told the graduates “this is just the beginning. You guys are going to take it beyond your CNA licenses.”

This was a training class for training and education coordinator Tracy Williams, MSN, BSN, RN. She will teach classes at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center beginning in January.

The graduates

The six graduates were complimented throughout the ceremony by Princess and Nora.

Mahojahnae “Mo” Cofield earned Princess’ Champion Award for being the most improved throughout the course of the class. “She wanted her patients to get great care,” Princess said.

Morgan Combs is the class valedictorian. She joined the class after spending time as a veterinarian tech, Princess said. “She decided she wanted to care for humans … There’s more of a connection when you provide care,” Princess said.

Morgan addressed her classmates in her valedictorian address, and thanked the instructor team.

“It’s been a complete whirlwind, but we made it to the other side. We have grown as humans and as nurse aides. We are a little more sure of ourselves, came out of our shells a bit, made friends with each other and had each other’s shoulders to lean on,” Morgan said. “… It has not been easy but we did it. I’m so proud to know each and every one of you … and so happy we took this journey together.”

Javonni James came into the class without previous healthcare experience. Tracy told Princess it looked like Javonni did it for years when watching her in the skills labs.

“She fell in love with her residents and will make an excellent nurse,” Princess said. Nora said Javonni excelled in the clinical environment.

Ebony Robertson had experience in healthcare and drove to class from Norfolk every day.

“Don’t stop here,” Princess told her. “You will be a great nurse.”

“She’s destined to do the right thing; she brings the best out of everyone else,” Nora added.

Princess referred to co-salutatorian Alicia Smith as “a little firecracker.” She exhibited professional growth in learning how to take care of residents.

“Alicia told me, ‘I will be great,’” Princess said.

Sharen Van Boeckel, co-salutatorian, worked in ICU care in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Virginia.

“She learned it’s different in nursing home and it’s different in Virginia,” Princess said. “She excelled in the classroom and on the floor.”

Nora added Sharen’s enrolled in a RN program that starts in January. “She’s a great leader and role model.”

VHS Vice President of Operations Don Lundin closed the ceremony saying, “Keep going. You’re on a journey. I’m excited to be part of your journey.”

The program

The next steps for the graduates include attending reviews at the EEE with Nora to prepare for the state board exams. “If you get through me, you’ll get through boards,” Nora said. “You will be a better nurse.”

The next apprenticeship class starts in January. Learn more about the program at vahs.com/apprenticeship.

IT team backbone to VHS

We’re thankful for the Virginia Health Services’ IT Team! Our team implements and maintains technology solutions across the company, which includes 1,200 team members stretched from the Peninsula to Kilmarnock and sites Richmond to Southside.

They field between 10 and 30 tickets most days, depending on need. Some require on-site response, while others can be solved remotely. The team is nimble, responsive, and share a large database of solutions they’ve developed over years of troubleshooting.

The team

Kathy Wickline has more than 20 years of experience with VHS. She manages the communication between team members to ensure issues are resolved. She has seen the growth and development of technology across VHS, including the move from paper to online nurses schedules.

How shift schedules were kept at facilities has been updated from this large piece of paper. "There was a lot of whiteout, erasing and correction tape used," Kathy said.
How shift schedules were kept at facilities has been updated from this large piece of paper. “There was a lot of whiteout, erasing and correction tape used,” Kathy said.

Michael Leeman joined the team earlier this year. He has a background in information technology in the food service industry. His role extends to VHS devices and their users.

“Identifying and helping people with solutions; I’m hands on with devices as well. Primarily, my role is finding new solutions for problems and implementing solutions,” Michael said.

Jacob Bean, who is part-time, is recognizable throughout the VHS facilities. He spent time working in customer service for the Norfolk Naval Station – so he’s no stranger to the importance of keeping client information secure.

He says his role is computer maintenance with all of the devices to make sure they are up to date with anything that needs to be done. He also is growing into doing other things on the team.

“Michael is mentoring Jake. Michael doing more networking, enterprise solution stuff. He takes on a lot on himself to learn. Jake is very eager to learn also. We all just share knowledge,” Kathy said.

They’re all very hands on. There also is a group that handles specific software programs to keep the VHS teams running, and a contracted firm that ensures cybersecurity across platforms and within solutions.

IT Team group shot
VHS IT Team of Michael, Jacob and Kathy incorporate solutions to keep team members online, devices working and patient information secure.

2023 projects

The team has implemented many solutions across VHS. A few of the 2023 project highlights:

  • Dialysis Den infrastructure
    • The Dialysis Den, which opened in June, involved additional technology infrastructure to keep networks secure. The Den, which is operated in partnership with DaVita, has multiple channels to protect data from both providers. “There was a separate subnet so it wouldn’t touch our network and mitigated risk,” Kathy said. “There’s a lot that goes into the backend of the implementation and figuring out what it is the customer wants. It takes a lot of planning.”
  • New call bell system
    • A new call-bell system is being installed at Northampton (as a pilot site). There is a lot of testing that goes into improving the call bells, the team said, including ensuring the Wi-Fi is strong enough to maintain the software and maintaining the building’s Wi-Fi needs.
  • Cyber security training videos
    • Cybersecurity awareness is key to the healthcare business. There is a lot of confidential information that needs to remain protected, under law. Quick training videos are now available to VHS team members to stay updated on trends, scams and best practices. “I think it’s a good tool to have in place,” Michael said. “It’s informative. The No. 1 threat to security is the end user. … The biggest benefit is protecting our clients’ data. Clicking the wrong link can open us up to legal issues. Having the awareness of what’s safe and what isn’t is pretty big.”
  • IT ticketing system
    • The updated system was implemented in early spring. It has cut down on emails and phone calls, and the ticket tracking system allows the team to see who it was assigned to (or if it needs to be assigned). “It’s been huge for us to stay organized,” Michael said, and keeps tickets that need to be fulfilled top of mind.
  • Upgraded security camera interface
    • The interface for viewing security camera footage is moving to the Cloud, which will make sections of video quicker to access, view and save.

Some current systems are aging, Kathy said, and the interface is cumbersome.

“It’s constantly refreshing technology. Something as basic as updating conference room speaker phones to help the sound; IT’s constantly stuff like this,” she says.

Walter Reed Awarded on Newsweek as one of America’s Best Nursing Homes 2024

It is the second straight year Walter Reed has received the honor

GLOUCESTER, Va. (Nov. 13, 2023) – Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Gloucester, a Virginia Health Services (VHS) entity, has been recognized on Newsweek’s America’s Best Nursing Homes 2024 list. This prestigious award is presented by Newsweek and Statista Inc., the world-leading statistics portal and industry ranking provider. The awards list was announced on September 27, 2023, and can currently be viewed on the Newsweek’s website.

This is the second straight year Walter Reed has earned the Newsweek honor. Walter Reed opened in 1981 in its current location and is one of seven nursing and rehabilitation centers under the VHS umbrella, which also includes home care, hospice, assisted and independent living, along with rehabilitation and pharmacy services. Walter Reed offers skilled and long-term nursing care in addition to Memory Care units for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The America’s Best Nursing Homes 2024 ranking lists the nation’s leading nursing homes in the 25 states with the highest number of facilities according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The evaluation is based on five data sources:

  • CMS Data used to determine the performance of nursing homes.
  • National Online Survey of thousands of medical professionals.
  • Management of the Covid-19 situation.
  • Resident Satisfaction Data.
  • Accreditation by The Joint Commission (TJC) and Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Based on the results of the study, Virginia Health Services is ecstatic Walter Reed again is being recognized as one of Newsweek’s America’s Best Nursing Homes 2024.

“This repeat honor is a testament to the dedication of the Walter Reed team to resident care,” said Virginia Health Services President & CEO Mark Klyczek. “They are being nationally recognized once again for their hard work and we couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.”

Learn more about what the Walter Reed community is like on its Facebook page.

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About VHS

Locally owned and headquartered in Newport News, Virginia since 1963, Virginia Health Services offers exceptional senior living and health care services. We specialize in the continuum of care from active lifestyle independent and assisted senior living communities, to skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. Our 1,000+ Team Members are passionate and committed to the well-being and quality care of our residents. Beyond our thoughtfully maintained communities located throughout the Virginia Peninsula, we offer a full range of personalized skilled health care, outpatient therapy, home care and hospice services by specially trained staff in the comfort and privacy of your home. To learn more, please visit our website at www.vahs.com.

About Statista:

Statista publishes hundreds of worldwide industry rankings and company listings with high profile media partners. This research and analysis service is based on the success of statista.com, the leading data and business intelligence portal that provides statistics, business relevant data, and various market and consumer studies and surveys.

VHS Admissions Team on frontline of customer service

Virginia Health Services’ centralized admissions team handles all incoming patients to our seven nursing and rehabilitation centers.

The team has a combined 50(ish) years of experience with Virginia Health Services. And how do they surprise the individuals they talk to daily?

“Many people are surprised that they get to talk to a human voice,” says team leader Kassie Martin.

They field about 100 (or more) phone calls a day between them. They remain professional, courteous and patient as so many of the individuals they speak with feel the stress of finding a safe place for their loved ones.

Our team members have to know how to decipher insurance information, understand medical charts and breakdown financials.

The team reads medical history and charts – and they get referrals from many sources.

It’s a challenging job to keep track of multiple individuals and where each is in the process. Once the admissions process is completed, the individual transitions to a Resident Navigator at the nursing center to onboard in person, which means our admissions team rarely meets in person those they’ve admitted.

It’s worth it. The team agrees the work they do helps contribute to the community they work in.

Thank you to our team! We can’t do it without you!

Join our team

Our centralized admissions team is looking for a coordinator who is a LPN. Visit vahs.com/careers to apply today.

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