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.