Virginia Health Services thanks its team on National Nurses Day

Virginia Health Services celebrates its nursing staff on National Nurses Day (May 6) and every day.

“They are the backbone of this company,” said Rebecca Boyd, Virginia Health Services Vice President of Nursing.

Virginia Health Services thanks its team on National Nurses Day

VHS Vice President of Nursing Rebecca Boyd

The team pulled through a tough year as a pandemic raged. And then again as new variants occurred.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Boyd said. “I truly appreciate them.

“We need to thank our nurses. It’s a hard job. It’s not just physically demanding, it’s mentally and emotionally demanding. We should thank them for their service.”

The experience, skills and knowledge the VHS nursing staff has makes them a valued resource.

“We want to continue to support their education, training and provide resources to help our team do their jobs effectively, so they can be the best nurses they can be,” Boyd said.

Nurses play an integral role in the healthcare and overall wellbeing of patients and residents.

“It’s holistic,” Boyd said. “They are invested in the relationship; they take care of the whole person, in addition to their healthcare concerns.”

VHS employs about 250 nurses, and there is a constant need for more.

VHS is investing in its team. It recently launched an apprenticeship program to develop Care Assistants to Nursing Assistants. The program aims to include development apprenticeships for LPN and RN tracks as well.

Virginia Health Services is hiring for nurses at all levels. Join a team that takes pride in its employees and values the work of nurses. Read more about the available positions on the VHS Careers page.

Virginia Health Services thanks its nursing team for its dedication to the care for its patients and residents.

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.

Charge nurse finds niche on Walter Reed’s Memory Care unit

Sometimes you find exactly what you’re looking for in a career, even later in life.

For Christine Brooks, an LPN at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, taking ownership in the care of the Residents on the Abingdon Memory Care unit made her realize even after 30 years in long-term care, you can grow into a different role.

“I never thought I’d be a charge nurse. I thought I’d be a floor nurse for the rest of my life, and I was cool with it,” she said. “After working in Memory Care, working with (the Residents) consistently and really getting to know them, and (the Walter Reed team) giving me the opportunity to do what I’ve been able to do here … I’m not going anywhere.”

Brooks is the charge nurse for the Abingdon unit. Walter Reed Administrator Bryant Hudgins said once the revamped Memory Care unit opened earlier this year, Brooks really took ownership of the unit.

When Abingdon opened, Brooks said she asked Walter Reed Director of Nursing Lana Ketch to be a part of it.

“I love Memory Care,” Brooks said. “I don’t know why.”

But she does. It’s clear in every sentence when she talks about the Residents.

Much of Brooks’ family has passed away, except for her children and brother. She says the Residents are her family.

“I just want the unit to feel like family,” she said.

It extends from the Residents and their families to the staff on the unit.

“We’re all in this together. We have to make the best of it, make it work. This is their home,” Brooks said.

Encouraging family to visit can sometimes be a challenge because it’s discouraging the Resident doesn’t remember who they are or that they visited.

“Just being there will make them happy even if they don’t quite know who you are,” she said. “You see that glimmer, even if it’s just for a second.”

What is Memory Care?

Residents live on secured Memory Care units to prevent wandering. They are memory-impaired, including having dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The units have private dining and relaxation areas. Abingdon also has a Snoozelen Room, which can be used for sensory therapy such as mood lighting and aroma therapy.

Walter Reed is recruiting team members for its Memory Care units, which have occupancy for up to 51 Residents. There is a need for nursing staff, among other positions.

What it takes

Consistency in staffing is key for Residents on the Memory Care unit.

“When I have regular staff who knows the team and knows the Residents, you build rapport with them,” Brooks said.

Knowing what to expect on the unit goes a long way. Being flexible and having patience are necessary.

“Knowing the process, what calms them, it helps avoid agitating a Resident,” she said.

“To me, it’s not complicated. It’s more common sense. … A lot of memory care is being flexible and being able to ad lib and roll with it. … You are not going to retrain them to do something. You have to redirect them.”

During meals, Brooks plays music to help calm and focus the Residents while they eat.

“They eat so much better,” she said.

She goes through a list of questions when there is a new admission, asking family members what the Resident likes, what are their behaviors and triggers, what types of music they enjoy and what they did in their lives.

“Anything they can think of that can benefit their mom or their dad to communicate with us,” she said.

“You can have somebody having a bad day, put on some music and they can snap out of it.”

There are about 15 Residents on Abingdon right now. A few are more active than others, but it’s a “very good mix. You can see them build relationships with each other,” Brooks said. They sit on the couch in the common area and chat and laugh.

Knowing what types of sensory redirection a Resident needs can settle them.

“I’m not a huggy person, but you can look at person and know they need that comfort,” Brooks said of hugging others or acting like a goofball if it helps a Resident.

“If you truly want to make a difference, if you truly want to do something … Make their lives better. Ask, ‘what can I do?’,” Brooks said.

Christine Brooks stands at the nurses’ station on the Abingdon unit, which houses Residents who need Memory Care.

Big plans

“I’ve got plans for this place,” Brooks said.

She’s pitching several ideas to help Residents “be as independent as possible.” That includes a walking club to help settle some of the more restless Residents. Brooks walks with one Resident regularly and it helps settle him, Assistant Administrator Nicole Beck said.

To execute ideas, Brooks knows she has the support of her leadership and team. Hudgins, Beck, Ketch and others are receptive to ideas that help the Residents live their best life.

“I’ve got some awesome staff,” she said. “We couldn’t do what we are doing without the support of Walter Reed team. … We want families to be comfortable when they come in.”

She said she may over-communicate with family, but it ensures families know what is happening with their loved ones.

“The family’s biggest fear is you’re hiding something from them,” she said.

Brooks says she is going to see her plans through.

“I would never want to do anything else. I don’t see myself ever not being a part of this. … I have no intentions of spreading my wings anywhere other than here.”

Apply now

There’s no better time to start a path in Memory Care. Our wages start at $15.50-$21/hour for CNAs, $25-$33/hour for LPNs and $30-$40/hour for RNs. VHS offers generous shift differentials and pick-up bonuses, and the benefits of working with an experienced team.

Virginia Health Services offers assistance in pursuing nursing education, and full- and part-time positions are eligible for benefits including health and dental insurance, and paid leave. VHS also offers a 401K retirement plan to eligible employees.

Get started today at vahs.com/careers.

TNAs get hands-on training before pairing with mentors

It’s not every day you get to practice using machinery on an instructor. But one recent afternoon, that’s exactly what two newly hired Temporary Nurse Aides (TNAs) got to do while going through their 20-hour training courses at Virginia Health Services’ EEE Center.

The trainees were paired up with two seasoned VHS Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs) as they lifted instructor Nora Gillespie out of bed, into a wheelchair and then back into bed. The training was done at the Employment, Enrichment and Education (EEE) Center in Newport News, where Virginia Health Services onboards and trains new employees.

The hands-on experience allowed the TNAs to ask questions, experience the equipment and see how to avoid pitfalls, such as accidentally letting a patient’s head or legs bang into the lift.

“If you let my feet hit there,” Nora said, pointing to the equipment’s base while swinging in the sling during the transfer lesson, “I have fragile skin, I bruise. And I’m going to let you know it.”

“It’s why this takes two people,” Erica Donaldson said. She has been with Virginia Health Services for 21 years and is a CNA at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She also is now a Senior Ambassador, which means she will help oversee TNAs at her facility for two weeks before they acquire a full patient load.

Students and Ambassadors listen to instructor Nora Gillespie, seated in a wheelchair in the center, as they learn to lift her back into the bed using a large piece of equipment.
Instructor Nora Gillespie, center, works with (clockwise) Koreen Hill, Erica Donaldson, Olympia Stephens and Tracy Moore during a recent training sessions at Virginia Health Services’ EEE Center in the Port Warwick area of Newport News.

Ambassador program

Erica was working with fellow Senior Ambassador Tracy Moore, who is a CNA James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and has been with VHS for 24 years.

The Ambassador program was launched to reward seniority and help develop training and communication within the facilities and across VHS.

Erica and Tracy were helping Nora train Olympia Stephens and Koreen Hill. Olympia will join Erica at Northampton and Koreen will join the team at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“I love what we’re learning,” Koreen said.

Nora said the program has given long-time CNAs a chance to see what new hires are learning, which can better prepare them to train them on the floor and what areas to work with them on to improve their skills.

“It’s good when the staff comes in to participate and give their insight,” she said.

Transition to apprenticeship program

To help fill staff vacancies at nursing home facilities in Virginia, then-Gov. Ralph Northam allowed the hiring of Temporary Nurse Aides.

The goal is to get new hires trained and on the floor quickly, in addition to providing them with a facility mentor who will help shepherd new hires into the apprenticeship program. The earn-as-you learn apprenticeship covers the cost of a five-week training course that develops Care Assistants to Nurse Aides. The program also covers the cost of the certification exam to be a CNA.

The 20-hour training program is “intense and condensed,” Nora said.

She says Virginia Health Services is showing through the program that it is investing to help the facilities staff properly. The TNAs are a “tremendous advantage,” she said. It’s also a stepping stone for the full CNA apprenticeship class.

“It’s a win-win,” Nora said.

Visit our Careers page and apply for the Care Assistant program today to join Virginia Health Services and be part of a team where training and experience are valued.

VHS celebrates our long-term care administrators

It’s Long-Term Care Administrators Week!

The American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA) established the week to recognize the “key players in the care team.” Administrators “are entrusted with the responsibility of managing the care of our loved ones. They touch the lives of residents and families, and, most importantly, ensure that their staff provides the highest level of quality care to a vulnerable population.”

Virginia Health Services celebrates our Administrators at our nursing and rehabilitation centers! They dedicate their time and attention to their Residents and team members. They multi-task and do whatever they can to make their centers feel like home, all while providing leadership and support to their entire team.

Please join us in thanking our long-term care Administrators and Assistant Administrators and get to know them in their Q&As below.

Coliseum Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas.

Dudley Haas, Administrator

Years with Virginia Health Services: 9 years.

What drew you to a career in long-term care? I started as a QA (Quality Assurance) nurse for the hours and ended up in the Administrator-in-Training program.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? Every day is different.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Some of the issues and concerns that we deal with daily.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? Quilting.

Haley Holland was promoted to Assistant Administrator last week. She served as Activity Director as Coliseum prior to her promotion.

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Stephen Berczek
James River Assistant Administrator Stephen Berczek.

Stephen Berczek, Assistant Administrator

Years with Virginia Health Services: About 3.

What drew you to a career in long-term care? Started out in physical therapy as a tech for VHS and then branched off into the administrative roles.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? Rewarding, challenging, fast-paced.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The extensive workload.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? Snowboarding, riding motorcycles, traveling and golfing.

Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Our Northern Neck facility is in search of an administrator. Learn more about the position.

The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Suzanne Williams
The Newport Administrator Suzanne Williams

Suzanne Williams, Administrator

Years with Virginia Health Services: 24 years.

What drew you to a career in long-term care? In life, people close to me struggled with early onset dementia including my mom and my grandpa. It was important to me to have a career that would allow me to assist in providing support for residents as well as their families. Creating an environment that assists individuals to live their later years with happiness and dignity celebrating who they were as well as who they are now.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? So incredibly rewarding!

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? I think people would be surprised at how much fun we have. There are components that are very difficult but we find ways to laugh every single day.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? I am a photographer.

Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Nikki Clements
Northampton Administrator Nikki Clements

Nikki Clements is coming up on a year as Administrator. This is her second turn with Virginia Health Services. She says her true passion is serving the Residents and staff in our long-term care communities and believes that to be successful is understanding that “what you do is far greater than what you say” from Stephen Covey. In her spare time, Nikki enjoys traveling and spending time on the water with her family and their rainbow of rescued labs.

Erin Mathis is the Assistant Administrator. She wore many hats in several roles at Northampton prior to her promotion.

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Bryant Hudgins
Walter Reed Administrator Bryant Hudgins

Bryant Hudgins, Administrator

Years with Virginia Health Services: 25 years.

What drew you to a career in long-term care? I was drawn to long-term care because I enjoy helping people and I’ve felt that at times our older, wiser community has been underserved and sometimes forgotten.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? Rewarding, fast-paced, unique.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The ever-changing needs of each day. There is not much of a constant. The job and its duties evolve daily.

On a different note, it can be surprising to others how upbeat and active our Residents are. Long-term care at times is looked at as an end-of-life setting, but our Residents in the facility lead very active lives, maintaining social groups, engaging in activities, etc.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? I am a board member on the Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts and work to bring all types of fine arts performances, even internationally, to the Northern Neck of Virginia. Expectedly, I enjoy coaching youth sports. I have been doing this for the last 11 years.

Nicole Beck, Assistant Administrator

Years with Virginia Health Services: Less than a year.

What drew you to a career in long-term care?  I had a family member who was in a state facility and saw what happens when an administrator has control but doesn’t have passion. I wanted to change that.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? Juggler at a circus.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? How much time I don’t spend in my office. And that I can easily make my 10,000 steps a day in heels.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? Driving in the snow, when we had those couple days last month. I was loving it. Being outdoors, snow sports or mudding with the family.

York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Elizabeth Cabusora
York Administrator Elizabeth Cabusora

Elizabeth Cabusora, Administrator

Years with Virginia Health Services: Started as administrator June 2021; was LPN at James River from 2008-2009.

What drew you to a career in long-term care? Caring for others — family, people of authority, peers, elderly – was part of my upbringing.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? Compassion is required.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? You can utilize your talents in your workplace — we all appreciate the effort!

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? Karaoke 😊

Jordan Kay, Assistant Administrator

Jordan Kay
York Assistant Administrator Jordan Kay

Years with Virginia Health Services: Almost a year and a half.

What drew you to a career in long-term care? I was drawn to working in long-term care for many reasons. The main reason is that I wanted to help those who have shaped all of us and the world into what we are today. I love being the reason one of my Resident’s smiles.

How would you describe your job in 3 to 5 words? Rewarding, fun, and a reason to smile.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? One moment I could be fixing a TV then the next moment I could be playing checkers with a Resident.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? I love spending my time off outside, whether that is hiking in the summer or snowboarding in the winter.

VHS celebrates Healthcare Human Resources Week

Virginia Health Services celebrates its human resources department for Healthcare Human Resource Week (March 14-18).

The American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration uses the week to highlight the behind-the-scenes department, which manages the individuals who work for VHS and its HR processes.

The two-person team at Virginia Health Services help manage onboarding new employees, benefits, employee relationships and more. Meet our team:

Shaleena Brown, Human Resources Manager

Shaleena Brown
Human Resources Manager Shaleena Brown.

Time with Virginia Health Services: 1 year.

What drew you to a position in healthcare human resources? HR is my passion. Coming in to ensure the company gets to the place they desire to be is a challenge that I am always up for!

How do you support team members at VHS? Listening. I help us work together to improve processes and promote empowerment, while staying compliant.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Being a counselor.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? Karaoke.

Personal tidbits: I am a homebody.

Michael Smith, HR Associate

HR Associate Michael Smith

Time with Virginia Health Services: 6 months.

What drew you to a position in healthcare human resources? To be a part of an ever-growing industry and make a difference in the employee experience.

How do you support team members at VHS?  We help our team members in multiple areas such as administering health benefits and affirmative action reporting.  We also work closely with other departments to ensure the onboarding process for newly hired employees flows smoothly and that they are accurately entered into the system.

What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? I think what is surprising about HR is how many functions we are responsible for. The few I mentioned above are just a small fraction of the overall responsibility of an HR department.

What is something you like to do outside of the facility that is unexpected? I was a Security Forces K9 Handler for the U.S. Air Force and I love spending time with my German Sheppard, Piper.

Personal tidbits: Playing golf and spending time with family.

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.

Seventh Virginia Health Services apprenticeship cohort graduates

The seventh cohort of Virginia Health Services apprentices graduated Friday at The Arbors Independent Living community. The group began its earn-as-you-learn training program in January.

The program includes classroom and clinical instruction to graduate Care Assistants to Nurse Aides.

Friday’s eight graduates will work in Virginia Health Services nursing and rehabilitation centers at York, Northampton, Coliseum and James River.

The VHS education staff will help schedule review sessions and certification exams for them to become CNAs.

Virginia Health Services graduates group photo in The Arbors dining room. The eight students are pictured with instructor Princess Henderson.
Instructor Princess Henderson congratulates the seventh cohort of apprentices for graduating the program. It was Henderson’s first solo class.

This was instructor Princess Henderson’s first full-time class. Henderson transitioned from Assistant Director of Nursing at Coliseum to a trainer and coordinator role on the education team for Virginia Health Services.

Virginia Health Services President and CEO Mark Klyczek opened Friday’s graduation.

“This is just a start in a career in healthcare for you,” he told the graduates. “There are opportunities within healthcare and within VHS for you to grow, to grow for yourselves and your families. Take advantage of those opportunities.”

The graduates

The eight graduates were members of Henderson’s first solo class. Instructor Nora Gillespie co-taught a few days during the session, telling the graduates: “Personally, I was impressed in just a few days with you.”

Valedictorian dressed in navy scrubs shakes hands with VP of Nursing and VHS CEO.
Valedictorian Courtney Sands is congratulated by Vice President of Nursing Rebecca Boyd and CEO Mark Klyczek.

Henderson introduced each graduate and they were awarded certificates of completion. The graduates are: Fatiqah Atkins, Dasha’ Diggs, Sabita Khadka, Laurinda Palmer-Yearby, Courtney Sands (valedictorian) Shontay Screven, Melissa Tanner and Valentina Zakieva (salutatorian).

Palmer-Yearby received Henderson’s “Heart Award,” given to the student who showed the most improvement throughout the class. Tanner was the recipient of the “Clinical Award” because of her positivity on the floor and being the only apprentice serving on one of James River’s units.

Henderson called Zakieva her “ball of energy. None of us moved fast enough for you!”

And while Sands was quiet, Henderson said you knew she was paying attention because she got the highest grades in the class.

“I want to thank my classmates for all the team work we had and wish everyone success in their future,” Sands said in her brief valedictorian speech.

“This class was difficult to get going because of COVID and snowstorms,” Henderson said. “It was my first solo class. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive, wonderful group.

“I’m so proud of you all.”

What’s next

The graduates were joined by family members and friends for the ceremony and reception afterward. There were lots of hugs and congratulations shared over cake.

The apprentices will begin next week as Nurse Aides in their respective nursing and rehabilitation centers.

“They’ll enhance our staffing,” Gillespie said.

The class celebrated their graduation over cake with family and friends at The Arbors Independent Living in Newport News.

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.

The apprenticeship program covers the cost of the course and clinical work, and the cost of the exam. The program is expanding to include pathways in dietary and housekeeping.

Previous cohorts graduated in AprilJuneJulySeptember, October and December.

Learn more about the program here.

Apply for our Care Assistant positions and more on our Careers page.

Sixth Virginia Health Services apprenticeship cohort graduates

The sixth cohort of Virginia Health Services apprentices graduated Tuesday at The Arbors at Port Warwick. The group began its earn-as-you-learn training program in early November.

The program includes classroom and clinical instruction to graduate Care Assistants to Nurse Aides.

Tuesday’s eight graduates will work in Virginia Health Services nursing and rehabilitation centers at York and Northampton.

The education staff will help schedule review sessions and certification exams for them to become CNAs.

It was instructor Nora Gillespie’s last full-time CNA class. She is working with instructor Princess Henderson on transitioning teaching responsibilities.

“You guys are sending me off on the best possible note,” she told the graduates.

Nikkya Cohens delivers her valedictorian remarks with the support of her classmates and instructor Nora Gillespie

Nikkya Cohens delivers her valedictorian remarks with the support of her classmates and instructor Nora Gillespie.

The graduates

Gillespie, as she has for the previous five graduations, spoke in superlatives about the students to friends and family in attendance.

She told the graduates she is proud of them, and that they demonstrated to her they have a willingness to do what it takes in the role.

“These women had each other’s backs,” she said. “They helped each other get across the finish line.”

Gillespie called valedictorian Nikkya Cohens a “role model” in awarding her a certificate.

“I’ve never met a bunch of women that allow me to be me. Women can be challenging to be around in large numbers and they were not that. They were supportive and extremely funny and that’s a value I always cherish. They ooze camaraderie in every sense of the word. Their spirit stays with me after class,” Cohens said in her valedictorian remarks.

Brittany Hodges gets a hug from instructor Nora Gillespie during the graduation ceremony Dec. 7, 2021.

Brittany Hodges gets a hug from instructor Nora Gillespie during the graduation ceremony Dec. 7, 2021.

VHS Vice President of Operations Don Lundin delivered opening remarks, saying Virginia Health Services is glad to be a part of their education and career journeys.

“This is the beginning, the first step,” he said.

Gillespie, who has likened the program to “CNA bootcamp,” explained that there are 14 tests and 22 skills the students learn over the five-week span.

“You nailed 22 skills,” she told the graduates, “and I couldn’t be more proud.”

She calls CNAs the foundation of long-term care. Their role means they interact most with Residents and are the eyes and ears for the nursing staff on the floor.

“To do the job, you have to heart and compassion,” she said. The students’ “first intent was to bring joy when you entered a Resident’s room.”

The class could be found wiping their eyes any number of times during the ceremony.

“I always make people cry,” Gillespie said.

The graduates were: Cohens, salutatorian Josie Wood, Giavanni Bailey, Brittany Hodges, Quentisha Norvell, Hope Overton, Shayla Shupin and Tomeka Williams.

“You can change a life, you can touch a life,” Gillespie said.

VHS 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.

Apprenticeship students are brought on as Care Assistants and spend about 30 days working in a VHS nursing and rehabilitation center before coursework and clinicals begin. Following completion of the classes, students then return to work at a facility and undergo review sessions to prepare for the state certification exam to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA).

The apprenticeship program covers the cost of the course and clinical work, and the cost of the exam. It also provides the benefit of Family Scholarship House, which can offer resources and funds to help cover academic coaching, affordable housing, transportation, child care, emergencies and more. It is available to those in the HAEP grant program at no additional cost.

The VHS apprenticeship program recently expanded to include pathways in dietary and housekeeping.

Previous cohorts graduated in AprilJuneJuly, September and October.

Learn more about the program here.

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