VHS team member supports local families at holidays

It’s the season of giving, and Virginia Health Services is supporting a team member’s efforts to make the holidays brighter for community members.

Shawn Hill, the assistant activity director at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, is collecting donations to help area families have a happier holiday. He has set out donation boxes at Coliseum in Hampton and the Employment, Enrichment and Education (EEE) Center in Port Warwick.

He started his holiday help program three years ago.

“I was just looking at everyone (at his family Christmas) giving gifts, cheerful, thinking ‘something is missing.’ What about giving to someone who really needs it?” he says.

donation box decorated for Christmas in the Coliseum lobby
Donation box in the Coliseum lobby.

His friends, family and other contacts are providing names of families who could use the assistance.

“People have been calling and emailing – I’m already trying to put families and things together already,” he said.

Shawn is collecting items mostly for preteen children and their mothers. He suggests gift cards or items like toys and warm socks. Whatever he collects will be delivered to those in need – “I’m going to go give them all out; even to some child, some parent out there in a shelter,” he says.

He said each year he tries to step up the number of donations and families his work supports.

Shawn graduated from the VHS apprenticeship program as a nurse aide in July. He transitioned to activities assistant the end of November.

“I love people. I love helping,” Shawn says. “I’ll do anything for them to be happy. I’d give them my shirt. My grandmother raised me like that.”

How to help

What’s being collected: Toys, socks and other comfort items, and a variety of gift cards (such as Wal-Mart, Target, grocery stores, Amazon).

Donations can be made at:

  • Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 305 Marcella Road, Hampton, Virginia 23666
  • EEE Center, 2140 William Styron Square S., Newport News, VA 23606

Apprentices share VHS experiences over past year

In honor of National Apprenticeship Week (Nov. 14-20, 2022), Virginia Health Services is featuring two apprentices who have truly embraced what it means to develop a career within the organization.

Our earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program graduates Care Assistants to Nurse Aides. The six-week course includes classroom and clinical experience. After graduation, our education team provides review sessions leading up to the state certification exam to be a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA). The program covers the cost of the exam, and our apprentices become team members at our seven nursing and rehabilitation centers.

The apprentices featured below are just two examples of how the program is a foundation to career development within Virginia Health Services.

Community care

Shawn Hill was a member of our July 2022 class. He has been working as a Nurse Aide at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Soon he will start as the Assistant Activities Director at the facility. Below, he shares his experience in his own words.

Portrait of Shawn Hill
Shawn Hill graduated in July and will start as assistant activity director at Coliseum on Nov. 28.

I was a caregiver without a medical education. The apprenticeship program let me learn the skills I need to provide the proper care an individual deserves.

When I saw the earn-as-you-learn opportunity, I knew I couldn’t miss it! I stepped out on faith and applied. I was nervous, but I got the call!

My whole life changed because I am doing something I really want to do. My passion for people and helping others is on display daily. I dedicate my time outside of work to helping others as well.

My opportunities within VHS continue to expand. I’m excited to share I will start as an activities assistant at Coliseum on Nov. 28.

Serving the community inspires me. I have a nonprofit back-to-school event annually, I coordinate Christmas giveaways to families in need and much more. What I say to everyone, “If you are going to do a job, do a good one.”

Adding on certifications

Valentina Zakieva is a CNA/RMA at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She graduated from the apprenticeship program in February 2022. At graduation, VHS Director of Education Princess Henderson called Zakieva her “ball of energy. None of us moved fast enough for you!” Valentina shares her journey with VHS below.

Portrait shot of Valentina Zakieva.
Valentina graduated the apprenticeship program in February and works at York.

The apprenticeship program with Virginia Health Services completely changed my life. I started in the dietary department, then enrolled in the earn-as-you-learn program to become a Nurse Aide. I passed my certification to CNA, and recently received my Registered Medical assistant (RMA) certificate.

I’m not stopping there. My goal is to become a RN.

It was an honor to be recognized at York as Team Member of the Year. I also was nominated as Apprentice of the Year in September. I work hard daily to justify the hopes placed on me. VHS has provided me the opportunity to thrive.

I am thankful for excellent teachers who imparted as much knowledge as possible on us and taught us skills until we got them precisely right.

I am here for the Residents. Seeing their smiles means the day is not lived in vain. I try to provide the compassionate care anyone would want to have for their loved ones.

I don’t regret moving to the U.S. three years. Everything is possible when you do it with love.

Join our team

We will start accepting applications for our January class on Dec. 5 at vahs.com/careers. The class will begin Jan. 23, 2023. Please look for the Care Assistant job description to apply.

VHS focuses on career development, promotion from within

Haley Holland had a good feeling about her test when she left the exam room on a Friday morning. She turned in her exam without reviewing it to prevent her from second-guessing herself. And her proctor indicated she likely passed her long-term care administrator’s licensure exam.

The weekend was more celebratory than stressed. The Virginia Board of Long-Term Care Administrators confirmed her license by Tuesday.

Haley started at Virginia Health Services as the recreation director at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She entered the Administrator-in-Training (AIT) program near the beginning of the year and completed her hours while on the job. She was promoted to Coliseum’s Assistant Administrator in the spring.

“Coliseum is so diverse, anything that’s going to happen in long-term care, it’s going to happen at Coliseum,” she says. “I know that I am where I need to be right now so I can get the best experience that I can.”

AIT

Haley shadowed employees in all departments to understand their roles during the AIT program. While day-to-day focuses on operations and environmental services, Haley said she also needed to focus on finance, management and leadership.

The exam sections covered finance, customer care support and services, human resources, environmental services and management.

Time with Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas and several VHS vice presidents was valuable to the learning process. Those conversations and notes of encouragement also were valuable personally.

“I really felt encouraged, like people cared that I was taking this test and wanting to advance in VHS,” Haley says.

She observed Dudley’s leadership through interactions with team members, Residents and their families. Haley walked through financials and asked questions all while helping to manage the day-to-day operations at Coliseum.

“The last two weeks of preparation, I studied any time I had free time. Any time. I had my flashcards everywhere,” she says. “I was constantly taking practice tests; looking at my flashcards … I asked anybody who walked through Coliseum questions. I recruited a lot of people to help me study.

“Dudley said, ‘I want to see you do well.’ ”

A majority of the questions on the licensure exam focused on Resident care, or regulations regarding Resident care and environmental services.

“It gets you to think about what’s the best route for everyone involved. … A lot of the questions were things I do day-to-day,” Haley says. The study materials helped immensely.

Haley Holland is “where I need to be” at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center as Assistant Administrator.

Drawn to senior care

Haley says her first job out of college was in an assisted living with focused memory care.

“I just knew it was going to be older adults the rest of my career,” she says after initially considering being a teacher.

She loves the Resident stories and learning from their life experiences. Eventually she says she may want to be an administrator for assisted living, where there are fewer regulations that control the Resident experience.

“At the facility, you see exactly what your efforts are doing. You have a direct line to the Residents,” she says.

Promoting from within

Haley said she was encouraged to enroll in the AIT program and used her time on the job to gain the hours needed to complete the program.

She says the administrator’s license provides her with multiple opportunities in long-term care. It was the best way forward in her career.

“It broadened my horizons with my future … doing the AIT and taking my exam, the possibilities are endless,” she says of what might be next. Right now, Coliseum is where she wants to be.

She plans to keep up her continued education credits for her license. Haley’s future paths could include assisted living, independent living or a specialization within long-term care, such as memory care or dialysis.

“It’s just exciting – opens up possibilities for a lot of things with my license,” she says.

VHS is committed to workforce development and promotes from within.

“The support that I get (from the team at VHS) is incredible,” she says. “Things like that, people really care; you feel supported and you can keep moving. I’m really thankful VHS helped financially with the test and the AIT. Overall, I’m grateful for the VHS community.”

Join our team

Be part of a team who wants you to succeed. Our career pathways include leadership, nursing, dietary, housekeeping, environmental services, social work and more. Visit vahs.com/careers and apply for a position that fits you.

James River DON shares wisdom from many years with VHS

Virginia Health Services is shining a light on our team members. We want to spotlight the roles our team members play to support individuals to live their best life and showcase the VHS culture. With National Nurses Day on Friday, we are highlighting James River’s Director of Nursing Peggy Evans, who has been a part of the Virginia Health Services family since the 1980s.

There is something about Virginia Health Services that keeps Peggy Evans coming back.

Evans, the Director of Nursing (DON) at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, is on her third stint with VHS. She started with the company as an LPN in the 1980s.

The elderly always has been her passion. She watched her grandparents get older, and says she wanted to make a difference after seeing her grandfather die from leukemia.

“I tried getting out of (working with elderly) a couple of times,” she says with a smile, “but it didn’t work. I wound up right back here.”

Evans left VHS the first time because her child arrived two months ahead of schedule. When she went back to work, it was with the VA as a charge nurse for spinal cord injuries. She worked with a doctor at TPMG and finished RN school.

That’s when she returned to nursing center care. She then became a trainer and after completing a computer course at CNU was traveling often. At some point, the travel between the tunnels became too much.

“I accepted for the third time with VHS and have been here ever since,” she said.

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center IP nurse Danielle Lynch chats with Director of Nursing Peggy Evans.

The DON

It’s the Residents and the staff who have kept her with Virginia Health Services, she said.

Evans was a trainer on the VHS education team, overseeing York, Gloucester and Lancashire. When the drive became too much — “I no longer have to fill up every week” — she returned as DON at James River in February 2021.

Peggy Evans looks at a woman filling glasses from a pitcher.
Evans chats with a team member filling drinking glasses for delivery to the Residents on the unit.

It was a difficult time for her. She had just lost her mother and had two other close deaths over the course of two years. Now her commute is six minutes from her home.

“I like what I do,” she said. “I’m a people person. I enjoy the families and the Residents.”

She was resistant to being a RN — “I wanted hands on,” she said.

While the DON role is more paperwork than people some days, she says she can sneak in a cigarette occasionally with Residents. And she dances “when my bones, when my joints will let me.

“I like being involved and seeing a smile on their face.”

Words of wisdom

Evans has a lot of advice for new hires to her nursing team. And she says she faces them all with an open-door policy — “let’s talk through a problem or an issue.”

“I check on new hires at least once daily,” she says. “I like being out there (on the floor).”

Her best advice for a new hire: “Do what you’re supposed to do the right way, every day. … Then you don’t have to worry about how to do it the right way.”

She also suggests being receptive to constructive criticism.

And she recommends the nursing staff listen to the CNAs.

“They know the Residents best,” she said.

Some of the CNAs at James River have been there for 30 years. Some nurses too. Sometimes it takes time to get a seasoned employee on the same page as a new hire. Evans recommends patience.

“We admit families, too,” she said. “We all become a team and work together to help the Resident.

“A happy staff makes happy care.”

James River DON Peggy Evans speaks with two employees at the nurses station.
James River DON Peggy Evans speaks with two employees at a nurses station at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

VHS family

Virginia Health Services is Resident and employee oriented, she said.

What’s made Evans return to VHS time after time?

“VHS is family. I have been very well taken care of by VHS in my tenure here, even with all the hardships and deaths in my family,” she says.

And she leaves this nugget of wisdom, which is universally applicable: “I feel like change is good because it opens up another rainbow. It gets you going in another direction.”

Join the team

Virginia Health Services is hiring nurses, including several positions at James River. Want to work with Peggy? Apply for the ADON position, or as a CNA, LPN or RN. Visit vahs.com/careers for a complete list of job opportunities at James River and with VHS.

Virginia Health Services launches redesigned vahs.com

Virginia Health Services launched a website redesign and we couldn’t be prouder and more excited to share it with you!

Your best life is our mission, and the redesigned vahs.com reflects how we can help you live your best life. The navigation is easy and the site can be accessed from any device. You will have an improved user experience when you visit vahs.com.

The redesigned site provides resources and guidance at your fingertips. Your introduction to the VHS spectrum of healthcare offerings begins on the homepage and provides you with the details you need to inform your decisions as you – or your loved ones – age.

Navigate the site easily, with every line of service and community Virginia Health Services offers in one place.

You can access details on all of our lines of service, from senior living options to nursing and rehabilitation centers to home health care, outpatient rehab and hospice.

We also clearly define our mission, vision and values that shape Virginia Health Services’ daily approach to being a provider of choice in southeastern Virginia.

We have made it easier to share your findings with others or to save the information for yourself. And you can contact us from any page.

Anchor of the FAQ and share buttons at the bottom of every page on the website.
Anchored at the bottom of every page, you’ll find a link to our FAQ and the ability to print or share by emailing the page to friends, family or yourself.

Jobseekers will find the process more streamlined on our Careers page, with easy access to our job opportunities and ways to apply.

To keep up with the continual changes in healthcare, our Blog will serve as an ongoing, updated resource. You’ll find employee and patient spotlights, tips on living your best life and a showcase of Virginia Health Services’ innovative approaches to its lines of service.

Virginia Health Services has specialized in senior healthcare in southeastern Virginia for nearly 60 years. It’s time our website reflected our growth in the community. Let us know how we can serve you by filling out a contact form on any page.

VHS spotlights historic nurse training programs for Black History Month

This year’s 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), is health and wellness. The organization is highlighting the importance of healthcare for African Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also is addressing the historic exclusion of Black individuals from hospitals and clinics across the country before integration.

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

Our research 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.

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 are committed 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.