The week of June 15-21 is designated by the National Association of Healthcare Assistants as CNA Week. This year’s theme is “We’re Unstoppable.” We know the team of Nursing Assistants and Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs) at Virginia Health Services is unstoppable.
We have a range of CNAs, from veterans to those who will graduate from our apprenticeship program to Nurse Aides on June 22. Our CNAs are the eyes and ears of the clinical team at our communities, spending time with the residents and patients. They provide personal care to assist residents in getting ready for the day and aide in all forms of activities of daily life. CNAs build personal relationships with the individuals in their care.
To celebrate this year, we are featuring four CNAs who have come up through VHS’s apprenticeship program in the past two years.
Our team members fell in love with the job because of the residents. And it all started with the team of instructors for our apprenticeship program, Director of Education Princess Henderson, RN, BSN and instructor Nora Gillespie, RN.
The six-week earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program graduates Care Assistants to Nurse Aides and covers the cost of the state certification exam to be a CNA. Apprentices are then employed at our seven nursing and rehabilitation centers.
Three of our featured apprentices graduated from the program about a year ago. Another was in our third graduating class and spent over a year as a CNA before transitioning to activity director of The Huntington Assisted Living. She still works CNA shifts.
Here are their stories.
Devyn Hotop, The Huntington/The Newport
Devyn Hotop considered nursing after graduating from high school, but wanted to attain nurse aide certification to test the waters. She says the apprenticeship – she graduated in the July 2021 class – gave her the foundation she needed and she “really, really liked it.”
She passed her exam on the first try and worked for more than a year as a CNA at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Devyn said she always saw the residents having a good time during recreational therapy and when the activity director job opened at The Huntington Assisted Living, she knew she wanted to do it.
“I love this job so much. You develop a lot of one-on-one personal relationships. It keeps you busy, which I like. It’s rewarding knowing you are doing something for them,” she says.
She also picks up CNA shifts at The Newport to be hands-on in patient care.
“In this role, I’ve had so many people help out with stuff. My teammates are always helping me and they always listen. That means a lot. Even in as a CNA, I know I’m coming in to work with people who will help me,” she says.
Devyn says she uses everything she learned during the apprenticeship.
“The class has great teachers,” she says. “Everyone at VHS has been such a good mentor and there’s a lot of support through it all. The class is overwhelming, but worth it in the end.”
CNAs are vital – “they glue down everything,” she says. “They do so much for the residents and provide so much care and spend the most time with them. They know before anyone else if something is off or wrong.”
Anjil Hicks, Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
She comes from a family of nurses and CNAs. She says listening to her family’s stories encouraged her to go into healthcare as well.
“I’ve always been a caring person, genuine. So I wanted to be a CNA, but I didn’t have the money to pay for the class. This was perfect,” she says of the apprenticeship.
Anjil says the team at Northampton “is amazing” and is supportive.
“I love my residents. I love helping to take care of them,” she says. “I love my team. Even from outside (the clinical staff), the administration is just so nice and supportive if you need it. This community, I love it.”
She says her foundation came from the apprenticeship class.
“The instructors are the best teachers ever,” she says. “They always made sure we understood the material before we moved on to something new.”
Anjil says she is considering going back to school to be a RN. She knows the team at Northampton will have her back when she does.
Jazmine Martin, York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Jazmine was working as a patient care aide when she noticed how CNAs interacted with residents and the nursing team.
“I wanted to do more and I looked up CNA classes and saw the one offered by VHS,” she says.
She graduated the class in September 2022. Jazmine says the job is “always a learning experience – there’s always something new.” She gets support and guidance by her teammates at York and The Hamilton Assisted Living.
She says she was drawn to senior care after seeing how much help her grandparents needed as they aged.
“I just fell in love with older people,” she says.
Jazmine plans to enroll at ECPI to gain her RN license.
“My son makes me want to continue on. I want to push myself to do more for myself and him,” she says.
Her advice to new apprentices: “Always put the residents first. They can tell you, if they’re able to, but put their thoughts in mind. They know when you are around.”
Laurinda Palmer-Yearby, James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Laurinda – she’s called Palmer on the floor – completed the CNA class in February 2022. She’s primarily been on the Warwick unit at James River since graduation.
She worked as a CNA while living in New York City and went through the apprenticeship class to get certified after moving to Virginia. There are different rules and regulations each state follows.
“I was always going to be a CNA,” she says. “My mother, sister and aunt are nurses. My grandmother was a CNA. My family has a lot of nurses and doctors in it and I was always going to be in healthcare.”
She and her apprenticeship classmates remain tight, texting one another to keep in touch. She also likes working at James River.
“I like there to be camaraderie on the floor. If I ask questions here, I’ll get an answer the best I can. Most of the time we do pretty good. We learn from one another,” she says.
She is back in school at Virginia Peninsula Community College (formerly Thomas Nelson) to be a patient care tech, which is an advanced-level CNA. Laurinda says you learn more about how to evaluate a patient, like therapy does. She plans to have it completed by the end of the summer.
“Being a CNA is a little more personable. In a hospital, you don’t get to know the patients. … You don’t come here looking for a relationship with anybody, but you realize they really enjoy having you around to talk to them and to have you help them get ready for the day and attend activities,” she says.
“I love the energy the residents have to give.”
Join our team
Our applications for the apprenticeship program are available at vahs.com/apprenticeship. We also have openings for CNAs at all of our nursing and rehabilitation centers and for our home and community-based services. Visit vahs.com/careers for more.
It’s National Skilled Nursing Care Week (May 14-20)! We are spotlighting some of our VHS Residents at Virginia Health Services’ seven nursing and rehabilitation centers. Our team supports our Residents in living their best life as they age with us.
We appreciate their time and the time of their visiting families and friends who all were so open in telling their stories.
James Genus – or as we like to call him, Mr. G – has been at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2021. He never misses an activity and always waves hello.
Originally from Rockville, Maryland, Mr. G was stationed at Fort Eustis after returning from flying for the Army in Vietnam. He served as a flight engineer for seven years in the Army, leaving as an E-5 in 1966.
It was while he was stationed at Fort Eustis that he met his wife. Even after struggling to find a job “as a Black man” in the area, they didn’t leave.
Instead he opened his own string of businesses, including a portable cleaning service.
“I learned I could make more money doing that than something in aviation (at that time),” he says.
Mr. G’s businesses brought in a lot of money and at its peak employed 40. His janitorial and environmental services businesses spanned several states, including Delaware and North Carolina, and they had contracts with several small colleges, he said.
“I never got a big head. Because it comes but you got a partner, and that partner’s the government. … I always stayed low-key, and I teach my son the same thing. He thanks me all the time,” he says.
Mr. G’s success translated to his son, also named James, though in a far different path. His son has played bass with the Saturday Night Live Band for about 20 years, and is also a freelance musician who has toured the world with Herbie Hancock.
He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children. Also in Connecticut is Mr. G’s wife of 57 years, being cared for in a nursing home there following a stroke.
Mr. G has been to see his son perform on the set of “SNL” many times, he says, but couldn’t quite pinpoint a favorite host.
“I don’t know (who my favorite host was),” he says. “I was just there to see him.”
Making move from Middlesex to Hampton
Until Rosaline Burrell moved into Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in August 2022, the only place she lived was Middlesex County.
She is now closer to her daughter, who lives in Hampton and comes to visit her daily.
She is 94 years old and has survived her husband and three of five children. One of her sons who passed away was her caregiver.
Rosaline and her husband were together for more than 70 years. He passed away in 2011 at age 93. She has three grandchildren. She worked alongside her husband, handling the finances of their landscape business for about 65 years before either retired.
“This was a big transition for her to leave her home and come here,” says her daughter Patricia. “We’ve not been back (to the Middlesex house).”
Rosaline enjoys the activities at Coliseum – she was looking forward to manicures this particular afternoon – and gets along well with her current roommate. She also enjoys watching TV – her favorite program is “Little House on the Prairie.”
She says “the help of the Lord” keeps her going.
Rosaline and Patricia know loss. Rosaline’s oldest son went missing without a trace from West Point 45 years ago.
Two sons passed away within months of one another.
“I wasn’t able to be there. (Patricia) took on everything about what was going on. She by both their sides when they died,” Rosaline said.
“God give her strength to do what she’s doing for me now.”
In addition to visits from Patricia, Rosaline has family who keep up with her, including a younger sister. She has frequent visitors and folks who keep in touch with her, including from the church in Middlesex.
Doris Scott has been in long-term care at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for about 20 years.
“I’ve enjoyed myself so far. Not a dull moment,” she says, citing the robust activities calendar for keeping her active.
“You don’t do the same thing every day. It’s up to you if you want to enjoy it.”
She likes the church services, flower club on Fridays where the Residents arrange flowers with the Newport News Master Gardeners, and bingo. She has seek-and-find puzzles she enjoys doing between activities.
Doris was born and raised in Newport News, in the Newsome Park area. She and her mother moved farther north and she graduated from Carver High School.
“This is my home and this always will be my home,” she says.
She has a sister in Hanover who visits every other month. Occasionally Doris will spend a weekend with her “in the country.”
Patricia Davenport became a Resident of Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in August 2022, when she could no longer live independently.
“I like the people here,” she says, “but I miss my apartment and my cat. She’ll be 16 in October.”
She had a series of falls and hospital stays that have left her in physical therapy at Lancashire gaining her steadiness and ability to walk without a walker or wheelchair.
“They do very good here; I have no complaints,” she says.
Patricia has family who lives nearby, including two sisters. Another sister lives in Louisa.
She has a step-daughter in Florida, who is raising her step-great-granddaughters, and a stepson who lives in Texas. One of her sisters and brother-in-law are looking after her treasured cat Buttercup.
“I wouldn’t give her away to just anybody,” Patricia says with a smile. “I haven’t seen my cat since July of last year. I miss her so much.”
She keeps a stuffed kitty named Bella on her bed, and there are several photos of Buttercup in her room.
Lancaster County native
Patricia and her family are from Lancaster County, growing up in Bertrand.
Before moving to Richmond following her first marriage, Patricia worked in housekeeping at Lancashire. She returned to Kilmarnock to care for her mother in 2010 and stayed with her until her passing in 2018.
“When mom passed, the house was too big for me to live there by myself,” she says. She moved into an apartment that fall; her sister’s family and Buttercup occupy the family home now.
“I loved my apartment; I didn’t want to leave it.”
She worked in department stores, including Kmart and Kohl’s, and in a warehouse assembling hospital equipment, before returning to Kilmarnock where she worked in a now-closed department store’s catalog department.
“I enjoyed being around people. I loved in the catalog what to do. The people I worked for were real good to me,” she says. “I loved all the jobs I’ve had.”
Stylist living life at Lancashire
Ray Meyers moved to Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about eight months ago. His sight is worsening due to a previous trauma and macular degeneration. Ray said he could no longer care for his Kilmarnock home alone, so he sold it and most of his possessions, gave away his dog and cat and moved to Lancashire, which is near his sister and her family.
“You bring what you can and sell the rest,” he says. “Overall, I’ve got three hots and a cot. The people here are fair.”
He enjoys the people at Lancashire and likes to kid around with the team to get them smiling and laughing.
“I don’t know of anybody who has lived a more fun life than I have,” Ray says.
Living the life
Since 1964 until his sight started to go, Ray cut hair.
“I was pretty good. I had the first unisex hair styling salon in Virginia. … I stole the idea. Guy (in Pennsylvania) had a great idea and didn’t know how to promote it,” he says.
He learned how to shampoo, cut and style hair, massage the scalp and be a nail technician. He trained his in entire team wherever he set up shop, which included northern Virginia.
“I went through quite a few dollars learning how to do a Farrah Fawcett haircut, a Dorothy Hamill haircut. We had to go through a lot of training to do these styles,” he says.
Ray also was a drummer.
He was married once for five years and engaged “four times with one ring.”
“I dated a lot of girls … but it was never so much about the catch as it was about the chase,” he says with a smile.
He lived in Alexandria while Vietnam was going on.
“I was prepared to go. My father was in the Marines, stepfather was in the Battle of the Bulge and brother was Army special forces, but as an asthmatic, they wouldn’t take me,” he says.
He moved to Kilmarnock in 2004 and started a business cutting hair. He’s originally from Shenandoah.
A trauma while he was robbed at gunpoint in his home led to some of the onset of his blindness.
He enjoyed hunting and fishing once he moved to Northern Neck.
Marie Collins, who will be 99 in August, has been a Resident at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2020. She’s comfortable, happy with the team members and rehab therapists, and pleased to not have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking or cleaning her space (though she does keep it tidy and dusts).
“I love it here,” she says. “I like the nurses. What more could we want?”
She has even acquiesced to play Bingo, which she says she didn’t enjoy before coming to Northampton.
Marie says it’s been difficult to outlive her friends. But, “here is where my life is now. But I just have acquaintances.”
She spent nearly 45 years of her life as a secretary, and then another 20 as a senior model in several campaigns and with community fashion shows. She spent much of her career in the U.S. Civil Service, retiring in 1986.
Her husband Jim was transferred to Ramstein Air Base in Germany after they met in Texas. She eventually traveled there and they were wed in Germany in 1956. Eventually, he was transferred back to Texas.
She tried to find a job, but was turned away because “you’re an Air Force wife. As soon as I train you, you’ll have to leave. So, I showed them. I joined the Civil Service.”
They were transferred to Hampton, and she took a job at Langley Air Force Base. The couple spent two years in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I loved it, but my husband didn’t. He was in JAG, working with the local police,” she says.
They returned stateside in 1968. Jim had two heart attacks. He was discharged from the Air Force, and the couple returned to Virginia.
Even after he passed in 1970, Marie stayed in Hampton. She spent the last 18 years of her Civil Service career at Langley.
“I never went back to Pennsylvania,” she says.
When her parents passed, she sold her half of the family farm in Hesston, Pennsylvania, back to her sister. Marie’s nephew and his wife live there now, and come visit about once a month when she goes to the doctor. They’re her remaining living family.
Her right knee started giving her trouble at 95. “Mother Nature decided it was time to slow me down.”
She wasn’t interested in getting a knee replacement at that age. After a bout with COVID, she moved into Northampton. It’s home now.
“If you’re going to live here, you’re going to make the most of it,” she said of decorating her single room as comfortable as possible.
The energy from Andre Hughes’ room radiates down the hall. Walter Reed team members and Residents wave or stop in to chat when they walk by.
She maintains several plants and has brightly patterned quilts on the walls.
“I enjoy taking care of them,” Andre says of the plants. “They’re good for me – they’re good for everyone. Plants are therapy for me. They are full of life and there’s so much darkness these days, I can watch these grow and thrive.”
Andre has been a Resident of Walter Reed for about 7 years. She’s found love and marriage while there. She’s made friends. And she’s recovered from the fall that landed her here, learning to walk and write again.
“These people are my family and this is my home,” she says. “I knew eventually I’d end up here. … And I think the Lord wants me here. I still have a lot of work to do.
“There are folks in here, where all you have to do is hold their hand and their face lights up. That’s a blessing for me. So the Lord is helping me help others … My faith has carried me.”
Born in France
“I am a product of World War II,” she says.
Andre was born in France. Her father, an American, had been stationed there and met her mother, whose family owned a café in which she worked. They were married and when he resettled in the U.S., Andre, her mother and two siblings joined him.
She was a physical therapy aide – “that was my last job. When I was very young, I worked for a radio station and the telephone company.”
Wedding at Walter Reed
While a series of events have left her without family, she has made a home at Walter Reed, including meeting her late husband.
“I’m friendly with everyone,” she says. “I met a wonderful man in here. We were married in here. They had the ceremony in the dining room – it looked like a winter wonderland.
“I knew he was very ill, but we wanted to be married in the eyes of the Lord. A minister performed the ceremony. The team and volunteers pooled money to get out marriage license. It was a joyous occasion. He’s in heaven now, waiting on me.”
They were married nine weeks. James passed away five years ago.
“He blessed me so much by putting James in my life. In here. I get blessed and I get blessed,” she says.
Love where you live
She is thankful for the team at Walter Reed, not only for helping plan a lovely wedding, but also for keeping the Residents active and engaged.
“I have an abundance of friends. (Recreational directors) Julie and Jennifer are the ones that hold this place together. They go shopping for us each week. They’ll help me find something to order online. They’re absolutely gifted in their personalities,” Andre says.
“It’s a good place to be. Right now, I can’t complain about my life because I know the Lord is leading me and guiding me.”
‘From the ashes, you can rise’
Mona Dennis started calling Walter Reed home since August 2022. She had to move from the assisted living she was at when the complex changed its business model.
She remembered how well she liked being at Walter Reed during a skilled stint in 2021 after having back surgery.
“I liked it very much. The nursing staff, everybody was so nice. I took an opportunity to come over here and here I am!” she says.
She had a very positive rehab experience at Walter Reed. But she says not much can be done for her back – she has spinal stenosis.
Mona has a walker that better fits her tall frame.
“It’s nice for tall people without having to bend over. It enables you to stand up straight. For me, it’s nice because as soon as I take hold, the pain stops,” she says. “It supports the spine and is a great relief for avoiding the pain.”
Loving her new home
“I’m 77 years old – I still have so much left,” Mona says.
Since she’s able to get around the facility with the help of her walker, she visits with fellow Residents. She also is a fan of the community pets – particularly the rabbit and the fish.
“You’re going to find people in all stages here. … Try to talk with people, let them know somebody cares. They look lonesome sometimes. Mostly, they just want someone to sit there and listen. I’ll do that; I’ll stop and see people. They like to see the lady with the tall walker.”
Mona says the team at Walter Reed goes out of its way to plan activities and keep people smiling.
“One day they brought a horse in here! It was so exciting to see that little horse. … Also, I’m not a bingo lover, but I think it’s a good way to get out and see people. Go make somebody smile. That makes my day,” she says.
“I like to spread joy. And in here, it’s important. Just the human touch! What it does for people is amazing.”
Journey to Walter Reed
Mona’s husband passed away in 2016. While they didn’t have children, she has several nieces and nephews.
For a while, they didn’t know where she was. But once they did, they call her regularly.
“My nephew called and said, ‘I want you to know that from this day on, we’ve got your back.’ … He said Aunt Mona, you were the best aunt anyone could imagine having. … I was as bad as they were! I would take them for the weekend and I’d take them roller skating or to an ice cream parlor. I guess those memories stick with you. So, he said, ‘now it’s our turn to take care of you.’”
“It just made me feel so warm. I gave them all my love because I didn’t have my own. I had a wonderful time with those kids.”
She is originally from New York. She met her second husband while in California with her father. Mona went to school to be a medical assistant.
“I was just coming out of a divorce and looking for what to do with my life and felt that was good for me. I like people. I like helping people, so it was good for me.”
She worked in doctors’ offices and in a hospital in Anaheim as an EKG tech in the emergency room.
“That was exciting work,” she says.
Now she looks out the window at the “majestic trees” and spreads joy to others at Walter Reed.
“I’m at the end of a long journey, I’m enjoying the hell out of myself!” she says.
“From the ashes, you can rise.”
Sometimes you can find a forever friend even when you are 92.
Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens became fast friends after being introduced to one another through a social worker at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about two years ago.
Alvera was in an independent living community until she fell and fractured her hip about two years ago. She came to York for rehab around Christmas 2021.
She then injured her other hip, also rehabbing at York. It was then she met Bob, and as her daughter Pam tells it, “a spark flew and I couldn’t get her out of here.”
Bob was in therapy and was spending his first Christmas at York when Alvera moved in.
They both like living at York. The activities keep them going – and they’re always found together. They’ll occasionally dine together.
The two just smile at one another and keep each other in good spirits, laughing frequently when they are in a room together.
Alvera and her family are from the Allentown area of Pennsylvania. They vacationed at Wildwood on the Jersey Shore.
Alvera was twice married with two children. Her son, who was in the Army, passed away.
Daughter Pam spent 12 years in the Air Force. She and her husband moved from Hawaii to Newport News when he was transferred to Fort Eustis. She was a nurse and retired as a civil servant from Eustis.
Alvera’s husband built her a beauty shop in their home, and she owned one in the town where they lived for years. She was a nurse and beautician.
Alvera and her late husband traveled extensively, seeing much of Europe, Israel and Egypt. They visited Pam while she was stationed in Greece.
“Isn’t she brave?” Alvera said of Pam’s service. “We were so proud when she said she wanted to go into the military.”
Pam and her husband have been married for 31 years. They have two children, a daughter who lives in Baltimore and a son who lives nearby and visits his grandmother frequently.
Alvera has a sister who lives in Pennsylvania who is 86. She occasionally visits her sister with Pam.
She likes adult coloring books, and Pam keeps her with a good supply. Pam visits her mother frequently, often volunteering during events at York.
Bob has Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and other ailments. He has been a bus driver, bookstore manager and worked at Walmart for 15 years. He found that keeping a few part-time jobs was better for his chronic disease management.
Bob is originally from Greensboro, N.C., finding his way to the area by way of northern Virginia, where he managed the student bookstore at J. Sargent Community College.
We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week by highlighting our communities’ volunteers! Virginia Health Services thanks our volunteers for their time and dedication in supporting our team members and the individuals in our care to live their best life.
In any given month, Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center may host five or more church groups to provide services to the Residents. We’re highlighting two during National Volunteer Week.
Ebenezer Baptist Church has been coming to Coliseum for about 20 years, according to Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. Minister Tracey DeBrew with Restoration & Faith Kingdom Builders non-denominational organization also comes once a month. They both conduct services at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in addition to others in the VHS family.
Deacon Charles joined Ebenezer in 1995 after retiring from the Air Force at Langley. He uses his military logistics background to coordinate the Missionary Outreach Ministry for the church. The group visits four nursing homes consistently each month. Sometimes the dance or puppet ministries also join them.
“This entire ministry just loves something that God has put on our hearts to do. No stopping now,” he says. “We’re doing what God has told us to do. We must go outside the church walls and carry the gospel to wherever we can go and be accepted. We’re really accepted at the nursing homes. A lot of the Residents are drawn to a church service.”
Minister Tracey was ordained in November.
“I felt I was to go out in the community,” she says. “I find it very heart-warming to be able to come out and talk to the Residents. A lot of them were constant churchgoers before they came here. … It’s a blessing, not only for me, but for them.”
She says she provides her phone number in case something happens or they need one-on-one prayer time.
“I will come and pray with the family, no matter the time of night, when someone is transitioning,” she says. “I will travel wherever it is needed.”
They both said Residents are receptive to services.
“I come in with a lot of energy and I have three other people with me. We put on music, we dance, we move. It gets exciting, it gets fun,” Minister Tracey says. “I love the Residents. Sometimes I’ll just come and visit them throughout the week. I listen to them. I’m accessible. I learn so much from these people.”
Adds Deacon Charles, “We get our enjoyment when God manifests in this place.”
Joyce Taylor couldn’t stop coming in to work. After spending 14 years in the dietary department at Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, she still can be found at the facility volunteering several times a week. She lives across the street and joins the Residents for activities such as crafts, Bingo and outings.
“I just love being with the Residents,” she says.
The Residents love having her nearby too.
Gala Damato loves to quilt. And for the past year, she has been sharing her skill and time with the Residents at The Hamilton Assisted Living.
She comes from a family of quilters, including her mother and grandmother, and is in two guilds. She is the service project co-coordinator in one of the guilds.
“Quilters like to give back. … We just find places that will take them. A few of these ladies are quilters or were quilters,” she says.
She and her friend Pam come monthly and work with the Residents on different projects. It’s one of the best attended activities. The first time she visited, she says she brought a few quilts to talk about. It was so popular, activity director Kirstie Saunders suggested more hands-on visits.
The Residents designed placemats for their rooms as the March project. Some fabrics will help spur memories; other fabrics are colored themed to season, Gala says.
“If you have a talent to share, here’s the place,” Gala says. “My mother was in an assisted living in Oklahoma; she would have loved something like this.”
She and her husband moved to Hampton about 20 years when he was in the Air Force. He retired from Langley AFB in 2007. Gala says she substitute teaches and got serious about quilting in 2011.
Jerry and Martha Dodson volunteer almost daily in the community. One Monday a month, you’ll find them doing crafts with the Residents at The Huntington Assisted Living.
They deliver Meals on Wheels and volunteer with their church, the Women’s Club of Hilton Village (Jerry’s an honorary member), an art studio, and on Saturdays are at the farmers market in Hilton Village handing out juice and crafts for kids.
During the holidays, they visit nursing homes and senior living communities dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, distributing gifts and cards to the Residents. (Jerry also can be found in the spring as the Easter Bunny.)
They say volunteering gives them purpose.
“Volunteering doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time or money,” Martha said.
There are all kinds of ways you can volunteer, whether it’s by creating a card, volunteering to help with a craft project, or making a phone call.
“We fill in the gaps,” Jerry said. “We have so many relatives – and that’s OK, we don’t have any children – because Residents thought we were family.”
Martha added, “You just develop relationships and connect with folks.”
Ray Agtay has been volunteering at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for almost 20 years – beginning shortly after he and his mother moved to Gloucester. A recognizable face around the facility, he completely has embraced the role of a team member in a volunteer capacity, coming three days a week.
“I just like helping people,” he says. “I like spending quality time with them.”
He helps mostly with activities and helping Residents get to and from their rooms around the facility. He helps with crafts and set up an audio/visual cart for Bingo so all the Residents can see and hear what’s being called.
“I love the people here,” he says. “The Residents and staff always commend me on my positivity and outlook. I don’t get paid, but I consider myself part of the staffing.”
Volunteer with VHS
All of Virginia Health Services’ communities are happy to accept volunteers.
Church and youth groups, school service organizations, Greek life and other college organizations, and individuals are needed to help facilitate activities and provide social interaction and support to Residents.
VHS Hospice also is looking for volunteers interested in assisting those in end-of-life care and their caregivers.
Contact the community nearest you to apply and discuss options with our team.
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 and Assistant 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 and Rehabilitation Center
Dudley Haas, Administrator
Years with Virginia Health Services: 10 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 5 words or fewer? 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, Assistant Administrator
Haley Holland is Assistant Administrator for Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Haley assists in supervising the operation of the facility. Prior to this role, she was a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, providing person-centered and innovative programs for the older adult population. Haley graduated from Longwood University with a bachelor’s in therapeutic recreation. Interacting with her grandpa who had dementia drew her to working in long term care and helping older adults live their most successful life. In her spare time, Haley enjoys spending time with her family and mini aussie exploring parks and walking trails. She is also an avid reader. Something that may surprise others about her job is how active and ever-changing working with older adults is. In five words or less, her job is best described as, “every day is different.” Haley is passionate about working with older adults and helping them live their best and most independent life.
Haley’s last day with us is March 31. She is helping transition our new Assistant Administrator, Aleisha Anderson.
Aleisha Anderson, Assistant Administrator
Years/Months of service with Virginia Health Services: I am a new team member with Virginia Health Services.
What drew you to a career in long-term care? Since childhood, I have had a passion to help others and always knew I would have a career related to helping others within a community. I have been in the healthcare field for more than 10 years, expanding my abilities in dental, hospital, and most recently, within long-term care settings.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? How staff, residents and families work together to deliver a high quality of care.
What is something you like to do outside of the facility? I love to spend time with family and friends. The beach is my happy place. I have a passion to travel, love to decorate and event plan, and enjoy attending festivals.
James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Karl Keffer, Administrator
Years/Months of service with Virginia Health Services: I started my career with VHS as an Administrator in Training in 1988. In 1989 I was the first administrator at Northampton. I left VHS in 1991. I returned to VHS as Administrator of James River in March 2022.
What drew you to a career in long-term care? I became interested in long-term care because I had wanted to have a career in healthcare administration after graduating college.
How would you describe your job in 5 words or fewer? My job is both challenging and rewarding.
What is something you like to do outside of the facility? I enjoy playing golf on the weekends.
Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Adam Harrison, Administrator
Years/Months of service with Virginia Health Services: 7 months.
What drew you to a career in long-term care? I completed an Administrator-In-Training program following the completion of a graduate degree in healthcare administration.
How would you describe your job in 5 words or fewer?It’s give and take; rewarding.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Behavioral health and its place in long-term care and being knowledgeable in applicable regulatory processes and working collaboratively with outside agencies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all residents.
What is something you like to do outside of the facility? Tending to my animals. I live on a small farm.
The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Stephen G. Berczek, Administrator
Years/Months of service with Virginia Health Services: Coming on 4 years.
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. I have always enjoyed helping others, especially the elderly.
How would you describe your job in 5 words or fewer? 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? Snowboarding, traveling, working on motorcycles/cars, hiking, boating, fishing.
Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Nikki Clements is coming up on two years 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. She recently announced she is leaving VHS at the end of March.
Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Bryant Hudgins, Administrator
Years/Months of service with Virginia Health Services: 28 years.
What drew you to a career in long-term care? I’ve always enjoyed helping others and as I turned older I unfortunately witnessed my grandparents and other older members of my family endure long, drawn-out illnesses. The more I become engaged in healthcare, I realized how long-term care would give me the opportunity to help others in need as they aged. Also, the security and stability a career in healthcare would guarantee.
How would you describe your job in 5 words or fewer? A continuous evolution in healthcare.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? How different every single day is. The duties of my job not only encompass the resident care and services but also physical plant and quality control of environment. It makes no single day ever the same.
What is something you like to do outside of the facility? I enjoy spending time with my family an am always out supporting youth sports. I recently completed my 10th year of coaching travel AAU basketball in 2022.
Amy Payne, Assistant Administrator
Years/Months of service with Virginia Health Services: Almost a year (10 months).
What drew you to a career in long-term care? I started working as an LPN in long term care in 1996. I’ve worked in many medical environments including long term care, memory care, travel nursing, inpatient rehab (IPR), and general family practice. After receiving my EMBA degree in 2020, I pursued a position in the AIT program to continue working in the long-term care environment that I am very familiar with and passionate about.
How would you describe your job in 5 words or fewer? Sometimes overwhelming, always rewarding!
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The volume and diversity of duties completed daily, no two days are the same.
What is something you like to do outside of the facility? Anything outside, on the water, beach and boating, bonfires/campfires. I love spending time with my family and friends.
York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
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 5 words or fewer? 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😊
Joel Batista, Assistant Administrator
Joel oversees to day-to-day operations of York. Before joining VHS, Joel served eight years in the U.S. Navy as a Submariner stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He worked on several projects with the Pearl Harbor survivors from World War II and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal two times during his service in the Navy. He has a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. Joel is married and has three children. He and his family love the beach and going to the pool.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Virginia Health Services is shining a light on the pivotal role women played in the advancement of medical treatment on the Peninsula.
VHS was founded in 1963 and for the past 60 years has strived to be the provider of choice for senior living, senior care, rehabilitation, home health and hospice. We recognize the value of our location in Hampton Roads and its rich history, which includes contributions to the medical field. And we’re proud to partner with Fort Monroe to celebrate women’s contributions to nursing and therapy this March.
We asked Fort Monroe archivist Ali Kolleda to share some of the former Army post’s history of women nurses and reconstruction aides, who were the precursors to occupational and physical therapists.
“World War I was a big turning point for the medical field, and specifically women’s involvement,” Ali said.
The research extensively shows the integral role of women’s work in the Army, well before they were allowed to enlist in 1943.
Virginia Health Services continues the tradition of supporting women’s roles in providing care on the Peninsula.
Civil and Spanish-American Wars
Fort Monroe was a hub for the treating of wounded soldiers during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. It was considered easy to access along the waterways, and was the only Union stronghold in the South during the Civil War.
At the time, Ali said, “Fort Monroe was lauded as ‘a miraculous climate that could cure disease,’ and the Hygeia Hotel was meant to allow wealthy people to convalesce and ‘take to the waters.’ Hygeia was named after the goddess of health.”
Nurses were treating malaria en masse and wounded soldiers from combat.
During the Spanish-American War, articles are written about how exemplary the nurses’ care is when treating soldiers returning from Cuba, Ali said.
There were between three and four hospitals set up at Fort Monroe during the Civil War. The complex included the Post hospital, a requisitioned the ballroom at the Hygeia Hotel, the then-Chesapeake Female Seminary, a tent Hampton Hospital (for enlisted soldiers) and a contraband hospital at the Fort’s entrance.
They were huge complexes with hundreds, if not thousands, of nurses running them.
“They’re called volunteer nurses through Spanish-American War,” Ali said. They were taught at medical schools and apprenticeships through hospitals. Many nurses were trained through the Red Cross.
A circular published during Civil War (possibly by Dorthea Dix) advertised for “matronly women, widows – women who don’t have dependents,” Ali said.
Ali said that changes, especially during times of war. Some women would follow their drafted sons and husbands to the post as nurses.
“Lucina Emerson Whitney followed two sons who were serving in the 67th Regiment, Ohio Infantry, which was sent to Virginia,” Ali writes based on Fort Monroe archived documents. “She was assigned to the Hampton General Hospital (of the U.S. General Hospital, Fortress Monroe) in June 1863 where she served for the duration of the war.”
During this time, black women could not enroll in the Red Cross. There is not a record of black women as nurses at Fort Monroe during WWI.
Black women were contracted during the Civil War at Camp Hamilton (Phoebus) as nurses. Harriett Tubman was at the Fort during Civil War to inspect the contraband hospital. She was offered the job as head nurse – “we don’t know if she came back because the war was over at that point. We know she was here for three months conducting the inspection,” Ali said.
Records at the end of Civil War (1870s) show that black midwives delivered children at the Fort.
“They were here,” Ali said, “but wouldn’t have been officially considered Army nurses in the Nurse Corps.”
Army Corps of Nurses
Army nurses are at Fort Monroe consistently from 1901, not just times of war.
“(Training) becomes formalized in 1901 at the end of the Spanish-American War when the Army realizes they need a permanent body of nurses,” Ali said. “The Army Nurse Corps is created at that point. Army nurses are contracted, not enlisted, so there are no benefits. They’re not considered veterans. They’re simply civilian women contracted as nurses.”
They developed a community on the post. Ali said Fort Monroe has community activity bulletins in the collections from the 1910s and 1920s that outlined who could swim at the community pool, and when.
Women, as nurses, were considered the equivalent of officers. They were accepted as a social part of the fort. At the end of WWI, with influenza ramping up, black women were allowed to enroll as nurses with the Army Nurse Corps through the Red Cross. They were assigned to certain posts in the Army, not necessarily at Fort Monroe.
Women enlist in Army medical unit
Women were open to enlist in 1943. Nurses’ quarters were constructed at Fort Monroe and nurses arrive in 1944. Women had their own barracks, mess hall, and were segregated from the male companies. They fall under the chief of staff for Army Field Forces.
At their time of enlistment, men and women received the same benefits and pay for the same rank. There were limitations placed on women for what rank they could reach until the 1970s. During WWII, their rank was usually captain or major.
The Army Corps of Nurses celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1951. The Fort Monroe collection includes medical unit lists of those women, souvenir menus and other items.
“(Women) become a very well-integrated part of the Army at that point, 1943 onward,” Ali said.
Ali shared an anecdote about Captain Elizabeth E. Steindel, who was chief nurse at Fort Monroe for about two years (1943-1945) during World War II. She was trained at Mercy Hospital in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned as an Army nurse in 1942. She taught an accelerated course at the Fort Monroe station hospital to train nurse’s aides in 1945 – which sounds like a precursor to the CNA apprentice training currently offered by Virginia Health Services.
According to a newspaper article from the time, “the Monroe nurses get a certain amount of military drill and calisthenics.” The article also states there was “a staff of 12 handling a 139-bed hospital.”
Once Fort Eustis, Fort Story and Langley Air Force Base are established, the military dispersed medical stations around Hampton Roads.
The Fort Monroe hospital, which still stands on Ingalls Road, was converted to a clinic after the 1950s. Fort Monroe lost a lot of its operations, including maternity, which eventually was assigned to Langley AFB, Ali said.
The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was inactive in 1974 and women were fully integrated into male units. By 1978, WAC dissolved into full integration in the Army.
Birth of occupational and physical therapy
Occupational and physical therapists also come out of WWI, then called reconstruction aides.
Near where the Hampton VA Hospital now stands was once the National Home for Disabled Volunteers, Ali said. It was a place for draftees to go to receive support for their “war neuroses.”
They were “asylum style hospitals; full-functioning communities for medical care,” though the underlying causes of mental health weren’t addressed at the time.
When the Army needed a demarcation hospital, it requisitioned the Hampton National Home and the veterans shifted to other hospitals in the U.S. Eventually it became General Hospital No. 43, which was geared toward mental health, shellshock and war neuroses, Ali said, to fulfill President Woodrow Wilson’s push to return soldiers to being “productive members of society.”
They added reconstruction aides, who were women trained privately through a hospital program and instituted programs to rehabilitate soldiers physically and mentally.
“It becomes the premiere neuro psychiatric facility of the Army” in Hampton, Ali said, and there were other locations.
One of the techniques the reconstruction aides used was weaving to help soldiers handle anxiety by occupying the mind. Programs were instituted and research was done that contributed to the occupational therapy program.
Occupational therapist Lois Clifford was assigned here in 1919 for the neuro-psychiatric hospital. She was trained occupational therapist and worked with soldiers with war neuroses. She was discharged from the Army with a “mental breakdown,” she calls it, and took time off for her recovery.
Clifford published a book on card weaving in 1947 and spent most of her life after her breakdown as occupational director at West PA School of the Blind.
The therapists fell under the Army medical department; no separate entity was created for reconstruction aides.
Virginia Health Services offers rehabilitation in its skilled nursing center units and outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy. We recognize the important work women did as reconstruction aides to lay the groundwork for that field.
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.
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.
Nutrition is fundamental to living and meals in senior living settings are a source of healthy socialization. Providing both requires a safe environment and an enthusiastic, well-trained team.
In honor of Healthcare Food Service Worker Week (Oct. 2-8, 2022), we are highlighting all our team does.
Virginia Health Services’ dietary department is instrumental in making sure recipes are executed according to Residents’ diets, they are prepared safely and served at proper temperature, and that the Residents have their needs met to the best of the team’s ability.
“So much of what dietary does is behind the scenes, but our buildings cannot function without dietary,” says Viki Reynolds, Director of Dining and Nutrition for VHS.
“It may not be seen, but it’s part of the heart of the building and it takes a lot of skill. Our staff members have to have a large span of skills to make sure we’re compliant and meeting Residents preference. It’s important for them to get nutrition, to serve healthy meals and provide a dining experience. For them, it’s socialization and comfort.”
Unlike in fast food job where you might just flip a hamburger, “we do way more than that!”
The dietary departments of our senior living communities and nursing centers wear many hats to get nutrition to Residents, serve healthy meals and encourage Residents to socialize.
Each Resident’s needs vary. Residents in skilled nursing units are trying to gain strength to rehab and get home. Some Residents may need to take food with certain medications, and their tray timing has to work in synch with the nursing team.
Some Residents need a therapeutic diet (such as low-concentrated salt or sugar) or a textural diet if they have trouble chewing or swallowing (such as meat already cut, softened vegetables or a pureed meal).
The dietary side has to match up with the care plan from the nursing side, Reynolds says.
Residents and families don’t see the actual work that’s being put in, Jones says, but they see the result.
“It takes a certain type of person to do the work and it’s serious,” Jones says. “It gets deep, when it comes to diets, and knowing what is right by the Residents. “It’s serious work and it isn’t easy.”
In addition to abiding by diets and allergies, there are codes and regulations to follow, including when and how frequently trays are loaded onto carts, the temperature of the meal and more.
“That can be overwhelming sometimes,” Jones says.
The upside is knowing you are working hard for the Residents.
“I love seeing the Residents’ happy faces when they eat the food that I make. It brings me joy,” says Coliseum cook Venzel Snead. He spent years in restaurants before coming to long-term care.
“Here you are a bit more intimate with the Residents and can improve what you’re doing so they see it (the consistency), unlike in a restaurant, you change customers daily. They really appreciate what we do.”
Healthcare food service
Our dietary team really gets to know the Residents’ preferences and makes note of them. They will fulfill special requests when they can. They get to know the Residents and their families.
“It takes a team. Everybody that’s working in that dietary department is important,” Jones says. “You do the best you can do.
“You have to be all in and have a humble spirit. You need to be able to receive feedback and want to do things the right way; learn from a mistake and be willing to learn. Be enthusiastic, be hyped up, be on fire!”
Bowen says, “You cook like you cook at home, but a different amount. And less fat and salt. I encourage my team to do different things. We will tweak recipes if we have to.”
And everyone gets geared up to serve holiday meals, such as Cornish hens, ribeye steaks and turkey dinners.
The dietary team becomes part of the Resident’s family. Jones says you often meet with Residents and families who understand you are doing a service.
“At the end of the day, I can visit a Resident’s room and hear, ‘thank you for all you do,’” she says. That appreciation helps build morale.
So does encouragement from the leadership team.
“I like that I see the administration and they’re not afraid to get down and dirty (if we need help),” Bowen says.
Teamwork and being able to come together to “be ready to do the impossible,” Jones says, means “we can do so much more and be so much better if we’re all on the same page.”
The assisted living communities also are introducing more options, Reynolds says, with more to come.
“We’re figuring out how to best serve our population,” she says.
The Huntington and The Hamilton offer pre-meal bread service, and will introduce a soup or salad course before the meal, “to encourage the Residents to come down and socialize.”
A third dessert offering is also to come, and the dietary staff is figuring out how to interact more with Residents at their room, such as offering fresh, hot items with the help of hot plates and toasters on each floor.
To encourage Residents to eat in the dining room more often (which during the height of COVID went underutilized), the dining managers are ordering fresh linens and chinaware to improve aesthetics, Reynolds said. They also are in the process of setting up a breakfast bar that will feature items like fresh fruit, pastries, muffins, cereal and coffee.
Johnston and the teams at The Huntington and The Hamilton also are excited to introduce fun fare in time for the holidays.
Join our team
Our dietary department is hiring cooks and aides for all of our locations. Job descriptions and how to apply can be found at vahs.com/careers.
“The road is bumpy right now, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jones says of knowing quality, skilled team members are being hired.
Cindee Hawkins loves what she does. Contracted by Virginia Health Services through her employer, Mid-Atlantic Long Term Care, Cindee spends most days at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She also can be called on at other VHS communities.
“I love being a PA. I love being a healer,” she says.
A PA, or physician assistant, can under the supervising physician prescribe medicine, diagnose illness and perform many medical tasks. PAs are being celebrated this week (Oct. 6-12) to recognize all of their contributions to the healthcare team.
Cindee is the only full-time PA with Virginia Health Services. She works with individuals on the skilled (short-term inpatient rehabilitation) and long-term units under the care of her supervising physicians at Mid-Atlantic.
“The goal is to get them doing their best and get them functioning as best we can to give them a good quality of life when back at home,” she says when it comes to individuals in skilled care.
“We see them as our family and take care of them like they’re our own.”
Cindee says in addition to administering patient care, a lot of the job includes educating the individual, and their loved ones, about their condition and recovery.
“It falls on us a lot of times to educate the families and explain the individual’s baseline,” she says. “We do the best we can to keep them here and really just try to nurture their rehab as best we can.”
She tells her patients that physical therapy is the “captain of the ship, I’m just here to keep it on course.”
Oftentimes, families have a hard time understanding the process after an illness, knowing only how the individual was before. Providing education and empathy is key to the job.
“I never want anyone to suffer while they’re under my watch. I feel like it’s a calling,” Cindee says.
“I just love it. The team here is awesome. I love everyone I work with. … We just love what we do. It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult work. I love what we do. I love this field of medicine.”
She started at Northampton about three years, so was “face-to-face with COVID-19 patients three days a week.”
Cindee says it was a difficult time, and she and the team wept with some of the patients.
“As caregivers, we mourned them as a group,” she says.
She says the aging population “needs a voice, and that’s what I want to do.
“A majority of us are here because we genuinely care and want to make things better for their loved ones. … We are caregivers. We are healthcare providers and we are healers, and that’s just what we love to do. That’s why we’re here,” she says.
“When you love what you do, you do it better.”
Becoming a PA
Cindee enrolled in medical school around the age of 40. While always interested in the medical field, having a husband, three kids, two dogs and elderly parents came first. She began taking prerequisites at Eastern Virginia Medical School (some of her early college coursework had relapsed) before being accepted to PA School.
She says there were 53 seats for more than 1,300 applicants for her class. Her father passed away the day she was offered an interview for the school, and her mother died of lung cancer following her first full school year.
They were the inspiration long before their passing to enter the medical profession.
Cindee says she watched her father have a stroke in front her while on vacation. He was in his early 40s and she was 15.
“Watching everyone come together (at the hospital), working together, it just reminded me of an orchestra,” she says. “Everyone knew their part and did it well, and it was comforting to see that.”
She spent a lot of time taking both of her parents to and from various doctors’ appointments and was dissatisfied with what appeared to be general disregard for them as patients.
“I don’t want anybody to go through that. It’s been in me (to be in medicine) ever since I was exposed to that,” she says. “We get close to our patients.”
She recalled a story of a woman she was getting ready to put on hospice care. Cindee reviewed the history one more time and found a medication she couldn’t identify on the chart. She consulted with palliative care coordinator Dr. Sharon Petitjean, who agreed the woman could come off the drug. Within three to four months, the woman was recovered enough she could go home.
“Going that extra step for her literally changed her life and the direction of her life,” Cindee says. “My thank you is somebody getting better. Outside of rehab, medically, they’re better because of me.
“Taking the extra time on a patient means the world. That’s the motivation.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
It was still Coliseum Park and just opening when Roslyn Shields started working as a laundry supervisor.
She has spent her career in Environmental Services. Over the years her position changed to include overseeing laundry, housekeeping and custodians as Plant Operations Director. She also serves as an administrator on call.
She retires Sept. 23, 2022, after 40 years at Coliseum, which was purchased by Virginia Health Services in 2013.
Coliseum roots run deep
Ros says she has a lot of personal memories in Coliseum. Friends she has made, learning how to be a manager, and it is where she met her husband. He was working in the maintenance department at Coliseum Park, “and one thing led to another,” she says with a laugh.
The Residents have kept her coming back to work for 40 years.
“I have a heart for the elderly population,” she says.
Ros recruited Luwanda Palmer 17 years ago to work in the laundry room of Coliseum. Luwanda handles the Residents’ clothing.
The washer never stops running, she says with a smile. Each person takes on a role, washing towels, clothes, linens.
“I like the Residents,” Luwanda says. “I like making sure everything is neat for them.”
She also loves to hear their stories. “I try to make sure they’re comfortable,” she says.
And you can never stop ordering supplies, Ros says. She tries to have two cases of toilet paper on hand at all times (that’s 96 rolls per case!) and plenty of detergent, cleaning solutions and disinfectant.
“I don’t like to run low,” she says. Her office is around the corner from the supply storage so she can keep an eye on things.
She is a cancer survivor, in remission for seven years. She says she worked through the treatments, only calling out once. She takes pride in having a stable department.
“I think they have shown appreciation for the way I manage,” she says of her team. “I only ask you respect me, your coworkers and do your job.”
Ros moved to Hampton with her family when she was in the sixth grade. She is a graduate of Hampton High. Her son lives in Newport News. Her three grandchildren range in age from 16 to 28. The youngest plays varsity football for Woodside High School.
“I won’t go to the game – I don’t want to see him take a hit,” she says, but still pulls up a game highlight on her phone of him running in a touchdown. “That’s all I need to see.”
She was born in Philadelphia. Her father was in the Air Force, and before being stationed in and settling in Hampton, the family moved all over, including to New Hampshire, North Carolina, England and Florida. He commuted on the weekends from Hampton to Andrews AFB the last year before retiring.
“I traveled a lot,” she says. She has three younger brothers.
In retirement she would like to travel, and views post-Coliseum as “another journey.” She figures she will work somewhere part-time, though, not really ready to commit to sitting at home watching TV with her husband. That won’t happen until she takes some time for herself, she says.
“I don’t know where that time went,” she says. “I’m going to miss everybody. Walking out of here is going to be sentimental. I’ll visit occasionally.”
Environmental Services Week is celebrated Sept. 11-17 by the Association for the Health Care Environment. Virginia Health Services is showing its appreciation for our EVS team by treating them to lunch this week. The team is responsible for keeping our communities clean and safe spaces for the individuals in our care and their visitors.
Our EVS team members have direct contact with our Residents and work closely with the clinical staff. We appreciate their diligence in providing sanitized, clean and safe communities for VHS.