VP of Quality & Clinical Revenue Integrity celebrates 25 years with VHS

Jennifer Dick, the VHS Vice President of Quality and Clinical Revenue Integrity, celebrates her 25th service anniversary this month. She started working with Virginia Health Services shortly after graduating from Mary Baldwin College with a degree in healthcare administration in 1996.

She was hired as an assistant administrator at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Since, Jennifer has been the administrator at York, associate administrator at James River and has overseen quality and clinical revenue integrity for a majority of her VHS career, adding the Vice President title in the past couple of years.

She and her team work closely with the clinical staffs at all VHS nursing centers.

Team development

The crux of Jennifer’s job is evaluating and training team members on programs and tools to effectively measure quality assurance and maximize revenue.

“Jennifer’s always tried to get the best tools in front of clinical staff, and leverage the tools that we have,” said Rebecca Boyd, VHS Vice President of Nursing. “She’s done the research … to make sure we’ve had the best product in front of staff.”

Jennifer has been integral to training VHS team members throughout her career. Several long-time employees have worked with her, including Administrators Nikki Clements (Northampton), Sharon Robins and Bryant Hudgins (Walter Reed), who was Jennifer’s managed care coordinator while a nurse at James River.

“She trains the staff on the use of technology and gets them to embrace and maximize its functionality,” Boyd said.

Jennifer said she has had a hand in developing staff and advancing technology for the team.

“I train a lot on technology,” she said. “You have to empower people to make their own decisions, and you have to have the right facts. … Part of it is really giving people clear directions.”

Measuring success

Jennifer’s focus on training clinical staff on technology has been at the crux of her role with VHS.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rates facilities with weighted star rankings in areas including staffing, health inspection and quality measures. Jennifer and her team have worked diligently with the staff at the long-term care centers to learn those measures.

She says she is a cheerleader for the team and holds them accountable.

“Ratings are up across the board,” she said. “We’re improving, for the most part. … We’re very proud of that accomplishment for our team.”

To do the job well, she said you have to be able to prioritize and be high energy.

“COVID was a definite challenge for us. Long-term care was never technology-focused before the pandemic. … We’ve come leaps and bounds since then trying to leverage technology to help us make better decisions,” she said.

Growing with VHS

Jennifer said in her 25 years she also has been “surrounded with a lot of good people with good intentions, good hearts and who want to work hard.

“You kind of become family,” she said. “VHS has always offered support from anyone in the company. You’re never on your own. …That’s why you’re here. In a pinch, there’s a lot of people who have your back. That’s reassuring.”

Originally from North Carolina, she also has lived in Texas and Richmond.

When she’s not working, she is supporting and encouraging her daughters, ages 7 and 9, in their various activities, which includes sailing with Hampton Yacht Club and club field hockey.

Jennifer also is a member of the Junior League of Hampton Roads and the Hampton Roads Garden Club.

Building 20 years with VHS: Young goes from Arbors to everything

The Arbors Independent Living building was about two months into construction when Jesse Young got the call: “Would you be interested in developing this project?”

It included overseeing the construction and operations of the new apartment complex that would cater to retired seniors.

“I didn’t know what Virginia Health Services was about then,” he said. But he said yes to the offer.

Jesse celebrates his 20th service anniversary this year. He is the Vice President of Facilities and Development for VHS.

Pictured (from left): VHS CFO Nikki Boldy, Kathy Wickline (IT), Jesse Young (VP) and CEO and President Mark Klyczek. Wickline and Young celebrate 20 years with Virginia Health Services.

He currently oversees the maintenance and environmental services, construction and dining departments for Virginia Health Services.

“It’s been a lot of years since I’ve had a boring day,” he says with a grin.

And surprisingly, it’s said without a phone pressed against his ear. He fields dozens of calls a day from team members spread across multiple facilities.

VHS construction zone

The appeal of building and operating The Arbors Independent Living was a driving force for Jesse’s tenure with Virginia Health Services. It opened to residents in 2003.

He hired the team. He fielded residents’ concerns and managed the building. And he became more mindful of how building design impacts day-to-day operations.

“The Arbors was a chance to truly build something that I was going to be responsible for operating. … It was a challenge,” he says.

Jesse has a degree in architecture from N.C. State, though “it’s been a while since I’ve practiced architecture.”

He says overseeing The Arbors from construction through operations “forced me to think about construction in a different way. Every decision is really impactful on the operation.”

The entrance to The Arbors Independent Living, which opened in 2003. Young oversaw construction and early operations of the community.

Those lessons carried over to a gradual evolution to do some things other than The Arbors after about 2008. It started small with construction projects like the rehab areas of York and The Newport. In 2014, it grew in earnest with the addition of The Huntington Assisted Living.

“It was really stepping out of The Arbors, at least on a part-time basis and really get involved in these projects. Then there was the Coliseum purchase, renovations to the nurses’ station, they kept coming,” he says.

“The Hamilton was the first time I was truly responsible for the construction of an assisted living, moving away from responsibilities at The Arbors.”

‘Flexibility is the name of the game’

The gradual evolution of Jesse’s role means there’s “a lot of moving parts.”

“Flexibility is the name of the game,” he says.

He works on capital planning and directing his team to address immediate concerns across VHS facilities. His aim is to build consistency across all buildings, such as using the same cleaning products and processes in facilities.

The dining and dietary big picture is a recent focus. “We want to make the quality and food and presentation be consistent,” he says.

VHS wants to offer choice so meals don’t feel stale. It includes experimenting with different set ups to learn how to take away roadblocks to change.

“It’s up to us to figure out how to influence the operation in a positive way,” Jesse says. “… How do I improve the footprint … regardless of scale?”

Family life

Jesse and his wife have a 7-year-old daughter, six adult children and seven grandchildren. Outside of the office, Jesse says he spends a lot of time with everything “family related.”

Before VHS, Jesse worked with Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg in several capacities. It was his background in construction and hospitality that launched the phone call to bring him to Virginia Health Services.

100 combined years of service being celebrated at The Newport

Virginia Health Services annually recognizes our team members’ milestone service anniversaries. We have been in the community for 59 years and are proud of our team!

We value our veterans who help provide guidance and support to our newcomers and this week VHS will recognize their service with blog and social media posts to celebrate all they have done for VHS.

We have three team members celebrating 30 or more years of service at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Michelle Smith, DON

headshot of Newport DON Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith is the Director of Nursing at The Newport. She has been with VHS for 30 years.

Michelle Smith, the Director of Nursing at The Newport, celebrates her 30th service anniversary with Virginia Health Services.

Smith started with VHS right out of high school as a CNA.

“I always knew I wanted to do nursing, so I wanted to get my feet in there to see if this is really what I liked. I was a CNA, and then I went to LPN school, and then immediately to RN school,” she said.

The Newport is one of the smaller nursing and rehabilitation centers under the Virginia Health Services umbrella. With 60 beds, Smith says the size allows the team to connect to the Residents and to the team members.

“I just love being able to talk and relate to the patients, getting to know about them and their history and their stories,” Smith said. “Getting to build that relationship with them and also then getting to see them get the therapy that they need. Many of them get better, have a positive outcome and go back home to keep on living their life. It’s just very rewarding.”

Smith says she’s always been a hands-on director of nursing.

“I don’t just sit in my office; I never have been just a paperwork DON. I want to be involved in everything that’s going on so I can help build a sense of team,” she says.

Smith developed her nursing career within VHS over the course of her tenure.

“I’ve just loved the company, the opportunity for growth, the family like atmosphere that we’ve had with our company for so many years and just being able to grow with the company and being able to do what I enjoy, which is taking care of the Residents,” she says.

Carrie Isaac, a CNA at The Newport, celebrates 30 years with Virginia Health Services.

Carrie Isaac, CNA

Carrie Isaac has worked as a CNA with VHS for 30 years at The Newport. What’s kept her in her role for this long?

“My motivation to care for people, love and take care of them … sometimes we’re the last ones they see,” she says. “The smiles on their face keeps me going.”

She is a Senior Ambassador and trains newcomers to the role.

“You have to be a people person,” Carrie says. “You have to care about people and treat them well. At the end of the day, when you leave here, know you’ve done your job well.”

Carrie says the focus on the Residents, even the smallest touch like taking care in how they are dressed and brushing their teeth, can help them have a better day.

“It’s rewarding to make them happy at the end of the day,” she says.

“They know. They know if you miss a step. When I’m off, I come back in and they say, ‘I missed you,’ and that makes me feel good. That means a lot.”

(Reposted from a June 16, 2022, blog entry.)

Curtis Sykes, EVMS

Happy 40th anniversary! Curtis Sykes started with Virginia Health Services as a nursing assistant in 1981 at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

After about 14 years, he switched gears to do custodial work at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He added maintenance services when he joined the team at The Newport.

“This is a good company; it’s always had my back,” he said. “I always appreciated them for that.”

He also brings other talents to the table. A singer, he has accompanied Bruce Hornsby for a performance at James River in his tenure and can be found doing a little karaoke at The Newport, particularly for the staff and Resident talent shows.

“I’m very proud to have worked for this company for this long,” he said.

Curtis Sykes performs during a Resident-Team Member talent show in April 2021.

Northampton dietary manager, 76, says it’s time to relax, but just a bit

After 46 years with Virginia Health Services, Mary Jones is ready to relax.

But just a little bit, she says. Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center’s dietary manager, who will be 77 in December, is going to stick to cooking for “her babies” three days a week.

“I call them my babies,” she says of the Residents. She loves cooking for them and watching them and eat and enjoy her meals.

“I enjoy cooking. I enjoy what I do. I love what I do,” she says.

Mary Jones stands outside the front door of Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Mary Jones, the dietary manager at Northampton, is semi-retiring. She’ll work three days a week after being “married” to VHS.

She’s introduced them to turkey wings, which she says they can’t get enough of. And she enjoys cooking hot dogs and more for cookouts every holiday.

Ms. Jones says she comes from a large family, so cooking for a group isn’t an issue.

“I married Virginia Health Services, I know that,” she says with a laugh.

This was her first job. She says she can count on one hand in 46 years that she’s called out, sometimes not being in for vacation or the death of a loved one.

“I just want to relax a little bit,” she says of semi-retiring. “… Just let me come in and do my little cooking and go home.”

She says she debated stepping away with God before making the decision. What she didn’t want to do was sit idly at home. They decided three days a week was manageable.

“And I ain’t babysitting,” she says of her family’s children, with a smile. “I send them home when they ask to spend the night.”

VHS thanks its Nursing Assistants for all their hard work and dedication

It is National Nursing Assistants Week June 16-22, 2022, and Career Nursing Assistants Day on June 16. Virginia Health Services celebrates its nursing assistants and CNAs (certified nurse aides) for the dedicated care they provide to our Residents at our independent living and assisted living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers, and the individuals we serve with VHS Home Health Care and VHS Hospice.

We are thankful for their guidance, expertise, patience and advocacy. VHS is committed to investing in its Team Members from the start, offering an earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program that provides classroom and hands-on experience to Care Assistants. Once graduated to Nurse Aide, the program also covers the cost of the certification exam.

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

CNAs have been on the frontlines since World War I, when certified nurses’ aides with the American Red Cross worked alongside Army nurses to treat wounded soldiers.

Virginia Health Services has several Team Members who have spent years dedicated to providing care in our facilities as CNAs.

VHS relies on them to be ambassadors and help train new employees on the floor. We spoke with three longtime CNAs with Virginia Health Services about their experiences.

Carrie Isaac has been a CNA at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for 30 years.

Carrie Isaac, The Newport

Carrie has worked as a CNA with VHS for 30 years at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. What’s kept her in her role for this long?

“My motivation to care for people, love and take care of them … sometimes we’re the last ones they see,” she says. “The smiles on their face keeps me going.”

She is a Senior Ambassador and trains newcomers to the role.

“You have to be a people person,” Carrie says of becoming a CNA. “You have to care about people and treat them well. At the end of the day, when you leave here, know you’ve done your job well.”

Carrie says the focus on the Residents, even the smallest touch like taking care in how they are dressed and brushing their teeth, can help them have a better day.

“It’s rewarding to make them happy at the end of the day,” she says.

“They know. They know if you miss a step. When I’m off, I come back in and they say, ‘I missed you,’ and that makes me feel good. That means a lot.”

James River vet

Bonnie King started with James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 1996 (though she had a brief hiatus in 2000).

“Me as a CNA, it’s a calling for me. Every day I step in that door, I know that’s where I’m supposed to be,” she says.

She’s had dreams of attending nursing school and a desire to be an RN.

“At 61, I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it would be challenging,” she says. “As a CNA, I just enjoy it.”

Bonnie is a Senior Ambassador for VHS and helps train newcomers to the floor.

“You have to come in with an open heart and an open mind, and patience and respect,” she says she tells new hires. “And I think with those things working in this field, that would get you through it. … You have to have respect (for Residents and Team Members) and be willing to help.”

She says Virginia Health Services has been supportive from when she started through now.

“James River, on a personal level and on a professional level, they have always been there for me,” she says. “Once you show yourself as a worker, that means a lot to the company.”

Years of experience at Walter Reed

Karen Hudgins has been a CNA at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since October 1979.

Karen Hudgins

“I like my work,” she says. “I love the stories (the Residents) tell.”

In her years at Walter Reed, she has cared for three individuals who survived concentration camps during the Holocaust. She’s learned about patents created by individuals in her care, and cared for a woman who wrote a book and signed it for Karen about her father’s time running steamboats.

“People forget that those people in the nursing center that did something that made a difference. ‘Cause you have to look at the real picture, you learn things about them that made a big difference in the world,” she says.

She works with another longtime Walter Reed CNA, Marva Hodges. Together, Hudgins says, they helped “break in” now Administrator Bryant Hudgins while he was an aide at Walter Reed.

Marva has been a CNA at Walter Reed for 39 years. “I always tell people, no, I didn’t come with the building,” she says with a laugh.

Marva Hodges

She is a restorative aide part-time, but a majority of time, she says she’s on the floor because of staffing. She’s an Elite Ambassador, and has been a senior aide on the Ward unit, and was a nursing secretary and unit secretary. As an Elite Ambassador, she had to do the restorative program and trains Care Assistants and new Nurse Aides, and assists with orientation.

“I’m really a people person, not really a desk person,” she says. “I love the patients, I like being in the mix with them.”

Marva says she can go on any unit in the building and “pretty much anyone knows who I am, just by my eyes (because the mask covers so much of her face).”

Residents matter most

To keep going in this role so long, all three said the Residents keep them motivated.

“I just love old people, that’s all. You can learn so much from them. … You see their faces when their people come in, they light up,” Karen says.

When a new hire is being orientated, Karen offers these words of advice: “Just remember one thing: They’re real people. And they did make a difference.”

Be patient, Marva says.

“Realize who you are working with. I remind them that the patient may not be able to give complete information because of their (health conditions). Learn how to talk to them, keep them calm and figure out how to redirect them.”

Carrie says the main things are the Residents and working together as a team.

“If the atmosphere is happy, they’re happy,” she says.

Join our team

We are looking for CNAs to grow with us. Visit vahs.com/careers to apply for a satisfying career with our team.

Get to know VHS recruiter Colleen Reynolds on National Healthcare Recruiter Recognition Day

It’s National Healthcare Recruiter Recognition Day! We’d like to take some time to introduce you to Virginia Health Services’ recruiter Colleen Reynolds. We appreciate all she does daily to recruit individuals to the company and help them through to the offer process.

Q&A

What drew you to recruiting? The thought of being a part of a process that helps individuals reach their career goals was one of the main reasons I was interested in getting into recruiting professionally. When I am able to make the initial connection with a candidate and follow them through the interview process, all of the way to the job offer, it is extremely rewarding to be a small part of their professional development and journey!

What makes recruiting for healthcare positions unique? I have said for a long time that any healthcare role is unique due to the fact that other people’s lives can be on the line with decisions that are being made. Healthcare positions also offer great job stability, as these positions will always be in need, regardless of the location. I also believe that in this industry you can realistically start at an entry-level position and have the opportunity to work your way up into many different specialized roles. The possibilities are truly endless within the healthcare industry!

What would surprise someone to know about your job? The constant need to know the specific legalities of each position and general labor laws. While recruiting does involve reviewing applications and conducting interviews, you always need to make sure you are following federal, state and local regulations when it comes to hiring.

Personal details: I was born and raised in New York and I have lived in the South for the past 15 years. I am a Stepmom and Dog Mom to two girls, a 10-year-old and a French bulldog. I am a true crime fanatic!

Apply with VHS

We having openings for nursing positions, dietary, housekeeping and more. View our job listings and apply to careers with Virginia Health Services at vahs.com/careers.

VHS Rehabilitation physical therapist shares best part of job is focus on individuals

Nancy Funkhouser doesn’t mind putting 100 to 125 miles on her car in a day. It’s part of the job.

And it’s a job she loves. Funkhouser is a physical therapist with VHS Rehabilitation whose patients are all coordinated through VHS Home Health Care.

“To have the privilege to do something that makes you happy, and that pays your bills, that’s like the best of both worlds. I don’t know why you’d work anywhere else or do anything else,” she says.

Focus on individuals

The role allows her to focus solely on an individual.

“The thing I love about home care is it’s you and your patient one-on-one,” Funkhouser says. “That patient gets 150% of your attention, 150% of your effort and it’s just you and them. No other outside distractions or pull to your focus.”

VHS Home Health Care helps get individuals back to living their best life by providing skilled care in the comfort of their home. The home health team contracts physical, occupational and speech therapists through VHS Rehabilitation as part of Virginia Health Services’ spectrum of services.

The VHS lines of service give individuals the best access to their care needs regardless of where they live in southeast Virginia.

Because of the nature of skilled home health care, time is often determined by insurance. Funkhouser says, “You really need to pack in as much as you can in those sessions to get as much potential and gain and recovery of function as you can.”

The supervisors make an initial visit to open a care plan and create goals with the individual. The treatment plan is rolled out to the clinical team.

“Everybody is focused on giving the patients what they need. You hope that by the end of your time with them, you’ve met the goals for your patient.”

Nancy Funkhouser

The team’s consistency allows individuals to see the same faces, “which is always better for overall patient recovery,” Funkhouser said.

Status changes can be identified and dealt with quickly when you and your team members know a patient. And the more you see them, the more they get to know you.

“When I’m with them, I give them as much as I can in the time we have,” she says.

Being a PT

Funkhouser knew she wanted to be a therapist since she was a teenager. She observed the therapists who worked with her father after he had major open-heart surgery.

That exposure to therapists in the hospital inspired her to be a therapist. She volunteered in high school and then went to school for therapy.

She spent 20 years in a hospital setting before working in home health settings a decade ago. She joined VHS Rehabilitation about six years ago and started with VHS Home Health Care a few months after it launched in 2015.

Working with VHS Home Health Care and VHS Rehabilitation put Funkhouser “in an optimal position to do what I do best, and that’s get wrapped up with the patient and get them better.”

It’s rewarding. There is independence and autonomy for the clinical team in providing quality care to the individuals VHS Home Health Care and Rehab serve.

“Here, everybody is focused on giving the patients what they need,” she says. “You hope that by the end of your time with them, you’ve met the goals for your patient.”

The passion for patients and for the job come through in Funkhouser’s voice.

“At the end of the day, I feel like if it’s a job you really like a lot, you tend to give a lot of yourself to it,” she said. “It’s just a win-win.”

Virginia Health Services leaders featured on podcast about strategy innovation

Peter Murphy Lewis, the host of Experience Care’s LTC Heroes podcast, has long been interested in the innovative thinking of the leadership team at Virginia Health Services (VHS).

He asked VHS President and CEO Mark Klyczek and Vice President of Strategy and Business Development Eric Gommel to share the story of how they teamed up at VHS on his show:

Strategy and Growth

When Lewis asked Gommel why he wanted to “join forces” with Klyczek, Gommel shared that he admired Klyczek’s leadership style, which he experienced working with Klyczek at a previous health system.

“He’s great at executing on initiatives, but he also approaches his work with a sense of humor,” Gommel said. “And that sort of management style really attracted me.”

The discussion shifted to why Klyczek created the role Gommel would later fill.

“I knew we had to reposition Virginia Health Services,” Klyczek told Lewis. He needed someone with the specific skill set and experience in data and analytics, as well as facilitating and executing on strategy, that Gommel possesses.

“What Eric’s been able to do is accelerate our growth and our strategic initiatives,” Klyczek said. “I can only do so much, but Eric is really able to take the ideas and things that we come up with together, and run with them, making sure that they’re executed.”

Sprints: Focusing on Key Strategic Initiatives

The podcast host was familiar with Sprints but had not heard of them in the context of long-term care before the interview.

Gommel said he faced a challenge in introducing the VHS strategic plan and initiatives that went with it. He and Klyczek began to focus on a smaller, more achievable number of initiatives.

“The idea was to break the strategic plan into digestible pieces,” Gommel said. “We started with an eight-week cycle and have moved to a quarterly cycle. We then tried to narrow down to less than 10 specific initiatives with measurable deliverables.”

Gommel said the initial strategic plan was introduced during leadership meetings. He and Klyczek listened to feedback from executives, narrowed the focus and shortened the time horizon.

“This isn’t some fancy thing that we had to buy or pay for,” Klyczek said of how he and Gommel communicate the plan and track its progress. “We just leveraged Excel. Every time we meet as a senior leadership team, everybody has to report on their initiatives.”

Gommel continues to develop new, exciting ideas with the leadership team that will guarantee Virginia Health Services’ future success as well.

“What really excites me is our future projects,” Gommel said. “Those include initiatives focused on workforce development and extending programs Mark and the team have put in place over the past year.”

This blog was written and provided by the content team at LTC Heroes.

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.