Virginia Health Services graduates fourth class of Nurse Aide apprentices

The graduation ceremony Thursday looked a little different.

Fourth class graduates Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

Apprentice graduation was streamed on Zoom and had limited in-person attendance.

The hybrid ceremony was streamed on Zoom, with limited in-person attendance at Virginia Health Services’ Employment, Enrichment, Education (EEE) Center in Port Warwick.

It was done to minimize risk, given rising COVID cases in the community. Each graduate was allowed one in-person attendee.

The eight apprentices graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides following a vigorous classroom and clinical “boot camp.”

Six will work in Virginia Health Services facilities before taking their state certification exam to be CNAs.

The graduates are: Lindsey Valdivia (valedictorian), Maiah Banks (salutatorian), Regina Benson, Latoria Cofield, Shavonte Gary, Jessica Johnson, Shalayia Johnson and Michael Polite.

The camaraderie at every graduation is always evident – these students have spent a lot of time doing hard work together – and there are always heartfelt moments.

None more so Thursday than when the graduates added a surprise ending to the ceremony for instructor Nora Gillespie. As her solo last class before she (semi) retires, they walked out with a “Happy Retirement” banner, gifts and cake.

A fifth class – with students at Walter Reed Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center and the EEE – begins next week. Gillespie will teach her cohort at the EEE with a new instructor, handing off full-time teaching responsibilities before retiring.

The graduates are: Lindsey Valdivia (valedictorian), Maiah Banks (salutatorian), Regina Benson, Latoria Cofield, Shavonte Gary, Jessica Johnson, Shalayia Johnson and Michael Polite.

Virginia Health Services CEO Mark Klyczek addresses graduates.

Virginia Health Services CEO Mark Klyczek addresses the graduates Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

Start of the journey

Virginia Health Services President and CEO Mark Klyczek opened the ceremony with remarks, congratulating the graduates.

“This is an important step in your career journey,” he said, “but it isn’t your only one. … There are so many options in healthcare today. …

“Go down the path that you think will get you the furthest in the long haul.”

Gillespie said it was an “intense journey” to get to graduation. The class has to get through 14 tests and learn and execute 22 skills.

“You were all up to the task,” she said. “You all said on the first day you had the heart and compassion to do this, and you demonstrated it in clinicals.”

The class did its clinical work at York Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center.

The graduates

Fourth class graduates Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

Instructor Nora Gillespie hugs student Michael Polite.

Gillespie is never speechless when it comes to celebrating her students. She piles on the platitudes because the students earn them. She is very proud of the students she instructs.

Benson, Gillespie said, found her focus and “knocked clinicals out of the park.”

Cofield comes from a family of Virginia Health Services team members. She “glowed on the unit” during clinicals, Gillespie said. She also received Gillespie’s heart superlative, which goes to the student who gives their all in the clinical environment. Cofield “beamed,” Gillespie said. “It made me speechless.”

Gary, who is moving with her family to Texas, “talks fast and was in it to win it.” Her instruction will carry over to apply to take the certification exam in Texas.

Jessica Johnson “sat up front, center and gave 100%,” Gillespie said, adding, “You said from the start it’s in your heart and in your blood to do this.”

Shalayia Johnson didn’t let anything stop her from being in class and getting the work done, Gillespie said.

Fourth class graduates from Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

Salutatorian Maiah Banks receives her certificate.

Polite was “determined to be successful,” she said. He earned her clinical superlative. “There was no attitude. It was always, ‘I’m on it, Ms. Nora.’ The Residents loved you.”

Banks, the salutatorian, was accepted to and started nursing school in the RN program at ECPI while finishing her class. Gillespie said she “thrived in the clinical environment.” The class, Gillespie said, set Banks up to be “an excellent nurse.”

Fourth class graduates Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

Valedictorian Lindsey Valdivia receives her certificate from instructor Nora Gillespie and VHS CEO Mark Klyczek.

Valedictorian honors grandmother

Valedictorian Lindsey Valdivia sat in the back, Gillespie said. “Her heart is pretty amazing.”

She had perfect attendance, and top marks in class and clinicals. She also, Gillespie said, “is an outstanding individual.” She offered words of encouragement to her classmates, got snacks when the class ran out and made sure the students who had to sit out a few days after possible COVID exposure didn’t get behind.

“I’m glad to have met you,” Gillespie said. “You all benefited from what (Valdivia) did.”

Fourth class graduates Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

Valedictorian Lindsey Valdivia honored her late grandmother wearing a scrub top with her image on it. “I know she’s with me here,” she said.

Her comments were met with applause and agreement.

Valdivia’s grandmother, who she was very close to, passed away a little over a week before graduation.

“So I decided to bring her with me,” Valdivia said, pointing to her scrub top with an image of her. “I know she’s here with me.”

“Your grandmother would be very proud of who you are,” Gillespie said.

Valdivia thanked Virginia Health Services for the opportunity in her valedictorian remarks.

“It encourages a lot of people to go further in their careers and their lives,” she said. “They made us realize our value.”

She recommended no matter what, finish what you start and “whatever you do, do it to the best you can.”

Valdivia said she got into healthcare because she saw what aging had done to her grandparents and she wanted to be an asset to others’ families dealing with aging loved ones.

Turning to Gillespie, she said, “And we couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. … She made sure we understood what she taught us. She was very patient and kind. She cared about us.”

Fourth class graduates Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

The class carried in a retirement banner to celebrate instructor Nora Gillespie.

Retirement surprise!

The graduates stole the show at the end, rendering Gillespie speechless. To honor her impending retirement, they carried out a banner, gifts and a cake.

Fourth class graduates Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

Instructor Nora Gillespie was rendered speechless by the retirement cake from her students.

“I’ve been trying to retire (for years),” she said, “but I keep coming back because I love what I do. I think I was put here for a reason … and it’s going to be a difficult thing to let go of.”

She had to take a minute to compose herself and thank the students.

“You’re my last solo class, and I will carry you with me always,” she said.

Apprenticeship program

Six of the graduates will continue working as Nurse Aides with Virginia Health Services at Northampton, James River, The Newport and Coliseum convalescent and rehabilitation centers. They will be able to take advantage of the exam prep offered by VHS’ education team ahead of taking their certification exams.

Previous cohorts graduated in April, June and July.

There have been 40 enrollees in the apprenticeship program since its launch in March. The VHS earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program is part of the Healthcare Apprenticeship Extension Program, which is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Labor.

Learn more about the program here.

Applications to the program are accepted on a rolling basis. To apply, visit our job listing.

Virginia Health Services graduates third cohort of apprentices

Virginia Health Services recognized its third class of graduates from the Nurse Aide apprenticeship with a ceremony Wednesday at The Arbors at Port Warwick in Newport News.

VHS CEO and President Mark Klyczek delivered opening remarks, telling the graduates Virginia Health Services is “fortunate to grow our own CNAs. … You are at the end of your CNA training, but the beginning of your career. There are no limits” to where you can go next.

The 10 graduates were the largest class yet for the VHS program. The fourth cohort begins Aug. 3.

The earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program trains Care Assistants to become Nurse Aides during a five-week instruction period. The apprentices are paid during their training time, and the program covers the cost of the certification exam to become a CNA.

The graduates

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center hosted Chad Hoffman for his apprenticeship.

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center hosted graduate Chad Hoffman for his apprenticeship.

Instructor Ann Armstrong taught one student at Walter Reed, Chad Hoffman.

“He had all eyes on him,” she said to the gathered friends and family at Wednesday’s ceremony, “and he did very well.”

The Newport News-based class came together as a team over the course of the 25 days of class and clinical instruction.

“I am happy to share everyone received an A,” instructor Nora Gillespie said. She teaches at VHS’ Employment, Enrichment and Education center in Newport News. Nine of the 10 graduates were in her class.

Graduates were Jami Brinson, Jessica Campbell, Chad Hoffman, Christine Johnson, Quedarica Jones, Tawandra Rawl, Dana Turner, Jessica Williams, salutatorian Devyn Hotop and valedictorian Shirley Weigle.

They are placed at York, The Newport, Coliseum, Northampton and Walter Reed nursing and rehabilitation centers to continue careers with Virginia Health Services.

The camaraderie and affection for one another was apparent throughout the ceremony, with barely a dry eye in the house by the end.

Weigle, in her valedictorian remarks, said that there were times in the course of being a Care Assistant, she considered quitting. She has nursing experience from her time in the Philippines, but has to be recertified in the U.S.

Apprentice valedictorian Shirley Weigle delivers remarks.

Apprentice valedictorian Shirley Weigle delivers remarks.

“There were days I would sit in my car and cry and think, why am I doing this? Then I said, no, I have dreams and I have goals,” she said.

Then she excelled in Gillespie’s class, earning top honors on tests, clinical skills and perfect attendance.

“I said thank you to Nora, she did it. And she said, no, you did it – you made it yourself” Weigle shared.

“I think we all did it. For the past month, I was with these eight beautiful girls. They shared their goals. They shared their dreams. I share this recognition with all of you.”

Gillespie awarded her entire class a “Heart Award” for the collective heart and compassion the students had for the Residents they worked with, and each other.

Surprise for Gillespie

The students surprised Gillespie at the end of the ceremony, walking back in with T-shirts designed with some of her more frequent sayings.

“You know more than you think you know.”

“I took a risk!”

“That’s cooler than dog’s lips!”

Virginia Health Services apprentices surprise instructor Nora Gillespie with T-shirts

Virginia Health Services apprentices surprise instructor Nora Gillespie with T-shirts with her best sayings on them.

Gillespie, not one for being the center of attention, hugged the T-shirt they gave her, and shook her head.

She also was given a framed photo the students took with her before the ceremony.

As the students were putting the T-shirts on over their navy-blue scrubs, Director of Education Bryanna Rhodes shared a few words to recognize Gillespie, who always recognizes each student at the graduation ceremonies.

“She has been with VHS for 7 years, and I have had the privilege of working with her since December. When you look at the classes she’s taught, the hundreds of students she’s touched … It’s always amazing to me she can create a team out of a room full of strangers.”

“CNA bootcamp”

Virginia Health Services apprentices gave instructor Nora Gillespie a framed photo they signed as a graduation gift

Virginia Health Services apprentices gave instructor Nora Gillespie a framed photo they signed as a graduation gift.

Gillespie doesn’t shy away from telling the students – or their families and friends – that the class she teaches for five weeks is hard. She doesn’t shy away from telling them that working in long-term care is hard.

She lifts up their hard work and accomplishments and shares details about each student who survives “CNA bootcamp,” as she calls it.

When class began, she asked the students why they were there.

“You all said, ‘I want to take care of someone. … I enjoy being with the elderly.’ You don’t find that every day in a group,” Gillespie said.

“Every day after clinicals, you had a story to tell about something that made you smile. … You cared about your Residents.”

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship program

The VHS earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program is part of the Healthcare Apprenticeship Extension Program, which is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Labor.

Previous classes graduated in April and June. The program is unusual in that it pays participants for their training, and employs the students after graduation. Learn more about the program here.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Apply here.

Coliseum reopens skilled care unit with private rooms

Coliseum Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center reopened its Monroe unit on Tuesday morning. The wing will add 30 private rooms for skilled care. The occasion was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony, with remarks from Virginia Health Services Vice President of Operations Don Lundin and Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas. The ribbon was cut by the Monroe unit’s CNA.

“I’m so proud that after six or seven months, we can reopen our skilled unit and allow our staff to get back to some normalcy and be able to provide the services and the help and assistance that we need, not only to our Residents, but to our team,” Haas said.

Coliseum hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to reopen its skilled care unit.

Coliseum hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday to reopen its skilled care unit.

The dedicated skilled care unit recently got a face-lift. The Coliseum team worked hard in advance of the unit’s grand reopening, cleaning, restocking the nurses’ station and med carts, and sprucing up the rooms.

“These last several months with COVID have really taken a toll on everybody,” Lundin said, “and it’s really put all of us on the defensive to try to react to it and manage it. …

“Today is a milestone. We’re really turning a corner to put us on the offense. We’re here to recognize that and celebrate it. The entire team worked so hard to get the Monroe unit up and running again.”

Eleven current Residents made the move to the skilled unit Tuesday, their things packed up and moved overnight by Coliseum team members so the Residents’ rooms were ready ahead of their arrival.

Haas shared with the gathered crowd that her team is why she comes in to work every day.

“I’m proud of everyone in this building who come together as a team for everything that comes up,” she said.

Virginia Health Services celebrates CNA Week

Virginia Health Services invests in the education and growth of its CNAs with apprenticeship program

Virginia Health Services celebrates its Certified Nurses Assistants (CNAs) daily – and is thanking them during CNA Week, which begins June 17 and runs through June 23.

The week is dedicated to thanking the work of CNAs in VHS facilities, and those team members will receive lunches and other forms of recognition.

VHS is invested in its development of CNAs. While it always has offered training classes and employment opportunities, Virginia Health Services doubled-down on its commitment this year by offering an earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program.

VHS is participating in the Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP), which is funded with a Department of Labor Closing the Skills Gap Grant and has an emphasis on careers in senior living. Employer partners are reimbursed for a portion of their apprentice training costs.

A new cohort begins every five to six weeks, and two classes have graduated from the program from Care Assistants to Nurses’ Aides. Most are employed by VHS’s nursing and rehabilitation facilities as they prepare for the state certification exam to be a CNA.

The VHS education team aids in exam-prep with review sessions and other resources.

CNAs essential to long-term care

Apprentices check their cart stock while gaining their clinical experience at York Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center.

As VHS celebrates CNA Week, it recognizes the important role CNAs play in caring for Residents.

“They are essential to long-term care,” says instructor Nora Gillespie. “They are the eyes and ears for the nurses. They spend the most time with the Residents.”

VHS Director of Education Bryanna Rhodes said often CNAs are the first person a Resident sees in the morning and the last person they see at night. CNAs are responsible for grooming care, helping Residents dress and a host of skills that put them on the frontlines of Resident care.

“The students are invested in the Residents,” Gillespie said, “and the Residents are invested in the students.”

Revamped course

The state of Virginia recently updated and revised its training objectives for CNAs. Gillespie, Rhodes and instructor Ann Armstrong recently restructured the CNA training program to make it more visually engaging as they factored in how best to present a curriculum of nearly 400 pages to students.

“VHS has an excellent program. It’s a good way to launch your career,” Gillespie said.

Apprentices learn 22 skills and cover over 650 PowerPoint slides over the course of five weeks. The course covers laws of long-term care, HIPPA, COVID best practices, residents’ rights, safety, infection control and how care should be delivered.

They spend six days in a VHS facility to gain clinical experience.

The training is paid. The apprentices also become employees of VHS in that time, and there is continually room to grow and educational opportunities. The apprenticeship program pays for its participants to take the certification exam once their Nursing Assistant certificate is completed.

“It’s more than just a CNA class,” said Rhodes, “it’s an opportunity for growth and to gain experience.”

The apprenticeship class works on patient care, including how to change linens, with instructor Nora Gillespie.

There are several VHS employees who have advanced in the company after starting their careers as CNAs, including Walter Reed Administrator Bryant Hudgins and Coliseum Assistant Director of Nursing Princess Williams.

Benefits of Virginia Health Services apprenticeship

VHS offers the continuing education tools to make it possible.

Rhodes said VHS has relationships with several nursing schools, and it also offers tuition reimbursement.

“It’s more than getting a CNA in the building,” Rhodes said. “It’s a career with VHS.”

The class is just the beginning for students, Gillespie said.

And with smaller class sizes – limited by the state to 10 students per instructor – VHS’s education staff can really focus on the students and get to know them.

“The students are our coworkers,” Rhodes said. “We create an atmosphere of wanting our team members to succeed.”

The focus on students allows instructors like Gillespie and Armstrong to find what motivates them.

“You help them find the light within themselves,” Gillespie said.

The apprenticeship program also helps alleviate barriers to employment for the students. There is assistance available through Family Scholar House, which can offer resources and funds to help cover academic coaching, affordable housing, transportation, child care, emergencies and more. It is offered to those in the HAEP grant program at no additional charge.

Family Scholar House is available to apprentices throughout the course of the year of their apprenticeship.

CNAs have always been needed on the frontlines

CNAs have always been on the frontlines. The profession began around the time of World War I, and certified nurses’ aides with the American Red Cross worked alongside Army nurses to treat wounded soldiers.

Valedictorian Sabrina Baylor receives her certificate from instructor Nora Gillespie.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in health care to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, adding about 2.4 million new jobs. The Bureau attributes the projected growth to an aging population and increased need in health care services.

The VHS apprenticeship program will expand. There are several opportunities being examined, including pathways for LPNs, and in pharmaceutical, dietary, housekeeping, and administration and leadership.

A new cohort of apprentices starts June 21, and it’s the largest class yet at 14 students on the Peninsula and Middle Peninsula.

Visit the Careers page to learn more and how to apply. Virginia Health Services has a continued need to add heroes to its frontlines.

If you see a CNA this week, remember to thank them for their care and service to a loved one.

Virginia Health Services CEO featured on podcast to discuss using analytics to elevate standards of senior care

Virginia Health Services President and CEO Mark Klyczek found a way to improve nursing home and rehabilitation facilities through incremental change. 

Those changes require sharing quality data, which is the key to raising a facility’s standard of care. Quality outcomes not only measure the care provided but also the satisfaction of Residents. 

On average, most facilities in the industry receive their evaluations with a six-month delay

Changing the system for the better

Klyczek decided he would not settle for a delay in providing the care Residents deserve. 

So he changed the system. 

If we’re not going to spend the right time finding what the real issue is, then you’re just always going to have that conversation which I dread, which is, ‘that’s just the way things are, and we’ve never been able to change this’,” Klyczek said during his appearance on the LTC Heroes podcast. “And I’m not interested in that conversation.”

Listen to the Klyczek’s conversation with Experience Care’s Peter Murphy Lewis with the player below:

Thinking big may pose challenges, but VHS’s president said he will always continue to push himself and his team “beyond what a nursing home should be able to do.” 

Klyczek decided to become more data-oriented and create his own system for checklists using Microsoft Excel. He created it while at Rochester Regional over the course of two-plus years. It’s a method he’s introducing and implementing now at Virginia Health Services. “I’m confident it can be replicated,” Klyczek shared on the podcast.

“I found myself saying,  ‘I’ve got to get ahead of the way that quality is reported in nursing homes if I’m going to have an impact,’ ” he recalled. “And, as it turns out, when we got ahead of it, we actually had a bigger impact than I ever thought we could.” 

Dedication to providing better care every day

The key to improving quality, according to Klyczek, is dedicating oneself to identifying the sources of error. 

“If we’re not going to be honest with ourselves about what the root cause is, and we come to a conclusion too quickly, we’re probably not going to solve the problem completely,” he said. 

He introduced a root-cause analysis tool developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). This includes an action hierarchy tool that Klyczek and the team use to make actionable and meaningful changes. He now finds it easier to develop checklists and protocols that help the facilities make steady progress in the quality of care they provide.

Actionable change means taking things “bite by bite,” Klyczek said.

He begins by tackling the problems that are off by just a single percent or less. After he notices the trends, he will approach the staff and ask: “What are the barriers? How do I help you improve pressure ulcers, because we’re seeing it happens more often with this type of patient?” Klyczek makes sure to get as much information to the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) as possible to enable them to make the best decisions. 

“Because I can’t be there every day, and the nurse manager can’t be there every day, we depend on the CNAs and the LPNs to assume responsibility,” he said. 

Klyczek also provides his team with a data analyst, who then gives the Director of Nursing or Assistant Director of Nursing at every facility the tools they need.

It’s a hard job, he says, but a rewarding job to work in long-term care. You have to support the team to be successful.

Guest blog provided by Cameron Zargar from the LTC Heroes team.

Second cohort of Virginia Health Services apprentices graduate to Nursing Aides

Virginia Health Services’ second cohort of Care Assistants graduated Friday at The Arbors at Port Warwick.

It is the second Virginia Health Services apprenticeship class. The earn-as-you learn apprenticeship program pays participants to take the classes and complete clinical work necessary to move from Care Assistants to Nursing Aides.

The graduates will take the state certification in about a month to qualify as CNAs.

A class of six started May 3, taught by Nora Gillespie at VHS’s Employment, Enrichment and Education (EEE) Center in Port Warwick. One student worked through the program with instructor Ann Armstrong at Lancashire Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center in Kilmarnock.

Participants had to learn 22 skills in 26.5 days. There were tests, lessons and hands-on work.

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship graduates

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship graduates take their seats during a ceremony June 4, 2021.

“It was very challenging, but they were up to the task,” Gillespie proudly told the graduates and their friends and families in attendance at Friday’s ceremony. “You did it, and you didn’t do it alone.”

In opening remarks, VHS Vice President of Operations Don Lundin congratulated the group, telling them, “There is so much need for what you are about to embark in. … It’s hard work. … It’s meaningful work.

“We are here to celebrate everything you are about to accomplish.”

Gillespie shared that the students bonded as a team.

“I’ve never had a class as focused as they were,” she said.

She shared sentiments about each graduate. Common threads included the team being compassionate, treating their patients with dignity and respect, and being organized and efficient.

Valedictorian Kimberlynne Watkins, a recent Hampton University graduate, said in her speech, “We started as mere strangers … but as we leave we’re taking more than a certificate with us. We have gained heart, compassion, diligence and so much more. … I’m proud to say I have made a friend in every single one of you.”

Watkins was also complimentary of Gillespie.

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship graduation

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship cohort valedictorian Kimberlynne Watkins and instructor Nora Gillespie.

“We can confidently say you fully prepared us to take on our roles as nursing aides. No matter what happens, we will always have your voice in our head guiding us.”

She also thanked program director Bryanna Rhodes.

Salutatorian Nicole Brown, Lawrence “Eli” Rhodes, Jasmine Smith, Sachae Simmons, Michelle Watts and Tanya Wiggins joined Watkins in receiving their certificates of completion, pins, name badges, flowers and VHS goodie bags.

They were joined by family and friends for a reception with refreshments at The Arbors, VHS’s independent living community.

Virginia Health Services Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship program is part of the Healthcare Apprenticeship Extension Program, which is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Labor.

A previous cohort graduated in April, and many are placed at facilities throughout Virginia Health Services’ network.

Three of Friday’s graduates are slated to be Nursing Aides at VHS’s James River Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center. Others are going to Northampton, York and Lancashire Convalescent and Rehabilitation centers.

“We’re excited to have you be part of our team,” Lundin told the graduates.

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship graduation

Virginia Health Services apprenticeship salutatorian Nicole Brown receives her certificate of completion and other goodies during a graduation ceremony June 4, 2021, at The Arbors at Port Warwick.

Careers with Virginia Health Services

Gillespie said the program is one of the best things VHS does.

The program provides the training and the pay, which is unusual. Gillespie said previously those interested had to take time off from other jobs to attend classes, and pay for the course. This flips the process on its head, making participating in Care Assistant training and advancement accessible to those who are interested.

It also provides employment opportunities, both during the training and as the apprentices continue through the program as Nursing Aides.

“The role of a CNA is the foundation of long-term care,” Gillespie said. “You know the residents better than anyone else. You add quality to their lives.”

Another apprenticeship class is slated to start June 21. Apprenticeship classes are ongoing throughout the year. Click here for the latest application.

VHS has a continual need for Care Assistants (CAs), Certified Nursing Aides (CNAs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Nurses (RNs), and has positions available in all of its Peninsula locations. Visit the Careers page for details.

CFO Nikki Boldy celebrates 25 years with Virginia Health Services

It started with a part-time job while in college.

Virginia Health Services CFO Nikki Boldy worked in billing while pursuing a degree in business administration with an accounting concentration at Christopher Newport University.

The Newport News native, a graduate of Menchville High School, has lived on the Peninsula her whole life.

This year, Boldy celebrates her 25th year with Virginia Health Services.

Throughout her tenure, she has seen and been a part of the company’s growth and success.

She’s been through two technology overhauls in shifts from paper time cards to electronic ones, and the conversion to electronic medical records. She was with VHS for the acquisitions of two convalescent centers, the start up of five companies and two major changes to Medicare reimbursement.

Through it all, her reason for staying in one spot has been consistent: “The people. I work with a wonderful team.”

Several faces in the finance department have stayed the same, while it has grown to include new ones.

“If you look at the longevity of the accounting department, it speaks volumes about our team,” Boldy said.

She was promoted to Chief Financial Officer in July 2020, previously serving as the Controller.

Boldy was honored for her 25 years of service at an awards ceremony May 13, 2021, during celebrations throughout the company for National Skilled Nursing Care Week.

VHS uses the week as an opportunity to celebrate its team members with service awards and other recognitions, food and fun activities.

VHS CEO Mark Klyczek congratulates Joyce Stevens on 25 years of service.

Eight were honored during a ceremony at the corporate offices in Newport News for having five or more years of service, including Joyce Stevens, a housekeeper who has been with the company for 25 years.

Longevity in the company can be attributed to opportunities to be promoted from within, Boldy said.

She served as a biller, billing supervisor and accounting supervisor for VHS before promotions to Controller and CFO.

“I have been fortunate to be able to progress with one company,” she said. “VHS has always treated me well. I have worked my way up, and been rewarded along the way for doing good work.”

She added, “VHS wants to be able to help employees better themselves and move up, if that is what they wish to do. You see it in the longevity of members of the team.”

Boldy said she got advice along the way to help open more doors for her, including from a professor at CNU who encouraged her to add a concentration in accounting – even though she knew she didn’t want to be a public accountant – and from a former manager at VHS, who encouraged her to get a CPA license.

“I’m glad she did,” Boldy said. “I don’t know that I would have taken it upon myself to do it.”

Outside of work, she said her happy place is outdoors in the sun, preferably on a beach with a book.

VHS thanks its dedicated employees. It honored about 65 employees across its business units this week for their service of 10 or more years.

Learn more about joining our team on our Careers page.

Virginia Health Services welcomes second class of apprentices

The apprenticeship class works on patient care, including how to change linens, with instructor Nora Gillespie.

The second class of Care Assistant apprentices began classroom skills work this week at Virginia Health Services’ Employment, Enrichment and Education Center (EEE).

The six apprentices are part of the Healthcare Apprenticeship Extension Program, which is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Labor.

The apprentices spend three weeks at the EEE before moving onto clinical units and skills lab training at York Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center for two weeks.

The EEE training in Virginia Health Services’ Newport News campus is led by Nora Gillespie. Within the first two days, participants said they already are learning a lot. They learned hygiene, proper hand washing, how to properly move a patient and change bed linens, and other fundamentals of patient care.

Before the skills work in the EEE, their training focused more on non-clinical skills such as feeding and waste collection.

Completion of the five-week earn-as-you-learn training program prepares apprentices for the exam to be a Certified Nursing Aide. The program includes covering the cost of the certification exam.

The first class of Nurse Aides graduated April 22, and those six apprentices are working as Nursing Assistants at several facilities, including those within VHS, as they prepare for the certification exam.

Apprenticeship classes are ongoing throughout the year. Click here for the latest application.

VHS has a continual need for CAs, CNAs, LPNs and RNs. Visit the Careers page for details.

Virginia Health Services’ first class of apprentices graduates

First class of Virginia Health Services apprentices graduates

The first class of Virginia Health Services’ apprentices graduated April 22, 2021, from CAs to Nursing Assistants. The ceremony was in Styron Square at Port Warwick in Newport News.

Virginia Health Services recently launched a partnership with the Healthcare Apprenticeship Extension Program, and it already has reached a milestone.

The first class of apprentices graduated Thursday on Styron Square at Port Warwick in Newport News. The six grads completed Care Assistant training and will continue their education as Nursing Assistants.

The ceremony on the Square celebrated the completion of multi-week on-the-job training at York Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center.

The graduates will continue their training to culminate with the CNA exam, paid for by the apprenticeship program, to certify them.

Graduates Sabrina Baylor (Valedictorian), Keirah Hall (Salutatorian), Tracy Green, Tina Lee, Niya Owens and Elizabeth Steere and their families braved the chilly weather to celebrate their achievements.

Their instructor, Nora Gillespie, RN, told them, “Lead with your heart. You have the opportunity to touch a life.”

Valedictorian Sabrina Baylor receives her certificate from instructor Nora Gillespie.

She said she was impressed by the group’s teamwork to get through their skills training and classwork.

“You have heart. You have compassion,” she said. “You’ll need all of it.”

Gillespie also helped Baylor get through her speech when she was overcome with emotion.

“I’m just so proud of everybody,” Baylor said, as the group wiped tears from their eyes.

Certificates were presented by VHS Director of Education Bryanna Rhodes, instructors Ann Armstrong and Gillespie, Process Improvement Manager Cerissa Atkins, and VHS Vice President of Operations Don Lundin, who gave opening remarks.

The apprentices, their family members, and VHS team members enjoyed light refreshments in the Square following the ceremony.

Several of the apprentices are going to work at other VHS facilities, including Walter Reed and Lancashire Convalescent and Rehabilitation Centers.

“You’re getting good ones,” Gillespie said.

The earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program is ongoing throughout the year, with the next class of CAs starting May 3. Learn more and apply on our Careers page.

VHS aims to grow the program to include apprenticeships for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), pharmacy technicians, and housekeeping and culinary positions.

 

Did You Know How Exercise Can Benefit Seniors?

 

 

Did You Know How Exercise Can Benefit Seniors?

 

Adopting a regular workout routine can help you combat the effects of aging.  It can also help sharpen your mind, maintain your youthful vitality & even enhance your joy!  We know the benefits of exercise & physical activity, but how safe is exercise for seniors? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0401/p425.html, almost everyone can benefit in some way from more physical activity or exercise. It can also help to alleviate pain & allow better mobility & even extend one’s independence.

 

 

As we grow older, our bodies tend to slow down making it harder for the body to repair itself, but the good news is that moderate physical activity is good for everyone, despite age and ability levels. For most of us, the benefits of exercising regularly far outweigh the risks associated with it.

 

How Physical Activity Works to Our Advantage

 

It’s a known fact that having regular exercise in your daily routine provides huge health benefits, including managing blood pressure & blood sugar, better joint and bone health, reduced amounts of lipids in the blood, & even long-term preservation of neuro-cognitive function.  Additional positive effects include:

 

  • Helps to Support Stronger Bones. Higher bone density reduces the risk of osteoporosis and lowers the risk of falls & broken bones. Research shows that strength training can dramatically reduce bone loss, restore bones, and contribute to less bone fractures and better balance. https://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/osteoporosis/6-exercises-strong-bones/
  • Helps Protect Against Chronic Conditions. If you have had a diagnosis of a chronic disease, incorporating a daily physical regiment can minimize some of your symptoms. For example, exercise is vital for helping those with chronic conditions like Parkinson’s disease & dementia to maintain their coordination and balance in order to extend their functional independence.
  • Helps to Improve Cardiovascular & Respiratory Function. Having strong lungs & airways as well as a healthy heart & vascular system keeps us healthy. Exercise helps us by lowering the risk of heart disease while reducing blood pressure, which in turn allows the body to function more efficiently.
  • Helps Gastrointestinal Function. Your metabolism is boosted & your body can eliminate its’ waste with regular exercise. If you suffer from slow digestion & constipation, physical activity can be an ideal way to keep your digestive health on track.
  • Helps to Boost Immune Function. A strong healthy body can fight off disease & infection more quickly and easily. Recovery from an illness will take less time and less of a toll on the body if the person exercises regularly.

 

 

 

A consistent exercise schedule can decrease mortality and age-related morbidity in older adults. In addition, seniors who exercised routinely experienced improvements in functional balance & reach which reduced the participants’ fears of falling.

 

What Physical Activities can People with Limited Abilities do?

 

There are people in every age group that have physical abilities which limit them in exercises, whether by injury, medical conditions or general frailty. These people must exercise a little more carefully than others, but they can adapt by learning exercise techniques that will improve their strength and ability, with proper instruction. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to the risk of illness, obesity and falls, so exercise is even more important for those with limited abilities.

 

Trained professionals can supervise people with certain limitations in a group exercise class, by helping to modify each movement for the individuals, as well as offer an entire regimen for specific improvements even with a person’s specific situation. Some excellent low impact exercises are yoga, swimming & water aerobics. Local senior centers and YMCA’s are great places to start when looking for exercise programs that help with unique challenges.

 

If you or a loved one is recovering from recent surgery, illness or injury and requires rehabilitation before getting involved in a routine exercise, consider Virginia Health Rehab.  We offer comprehensive rehab services in our outpatient facility in Port Warwick, as well as on-site services at each of our communities.  Visit www.virginiahealthrehab.com.

 

Should you require more extensive services, our home health division, Virginia Health Home Care, can provide the help you need to increase your stability & flexibility at home.  Visit us at www.virginiahealthhomecare.com.

 

One benefit of physical activity & exercise is the social aspect & comradery that are built by working out together, or as a class.  Most independent or assisted living communities have fitness centers. The Arbors at Port Warwick, our independent living community, has a fitness center as well as other amenities.  Our assisted living communities, The Huntington and The Hamilton also offer a wellness center, exercise classes & a full social activity calendar. Visit www.vahs.com to find out more.

 

As with anything new, please consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen or resuming one. Your doctor can make recommendations on what physical activities would work best for you or your loved one.