Virginia Health Services celebrates its long-term care administrators

It’s Long-Term Care Administrators Week!

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

Virginia Health Services celebrates our Administrators 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

Portrait of Dudley Haas
Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas.

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

Coliseum Activity Director Haley Holland pictured on a mountaintop with her dog Millie.
Coliseum Activity Director Haley Holland often brings in her dog Millie, shown here, to provide pet therapy to Residents and team members.

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

Coliseum Assistant Administrator Aleisha Anderson
Aleisha Anderson joined the Coliseum team this month.

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

Karl Keffer headshot
James River Nursing & Rehabilitation Center Administrator Karl Keffer

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

Portrait of Adam Harrison
Lancashire administrator Adam Harrison

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

Stephen holding a fish
Stephen enjoys fishing and boating when he’s not at The Newport.

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

Portrait of Nikki Clements
Nikki Clements at Northampton

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

Bryant Hudgins
Bryant Hudgins started as a Nurse Aide with VHS.

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

Portrait of Amy Payne
Amy joined the VHS team about a year ago.

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

Portrait of Elizabeth Cabusora
Elizabeth enjoys singing karaoke, sometimes with the Residents!

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

Headshot of Joel Batista
Joel Batista is the Assistant Administrator at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Hamilton Assisted Living.

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.

Women’s History Month: VHS highlights women’s integral role to advancement of medical care on Peninsula

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.

Nurses stand in a group during a photo shoot at Fort Monroe in the 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe)
A group of nurses views records during a photo shoot for the 50th anniversary of the Army Corps of Nurses. (Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe.)

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.

Archive image of Chesapeake Females Seminary (now home of the Hampton VA). Courtesy of Fort Monroe
Archive image of Chesapeake Females Seminary (now home of the Hampton VA). (Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe.)

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, volunteer Civil War nurse at Monroe
Lucina Emerson Whitney, volunteer Civil War nurse at Monroe. (Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe.)

“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.

Nurses at work at Fort Monroe in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe
Nurses at work at Fort Monroe around the time of the 50th anniversary of the Army Corps of Nurses in 1951. (Photo courtesy of 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.

Photo of Captain Elizabeth Steindel, which appeared in the Daily Press on April 11, 1943. (Courtesy of Fort Monroe.)
Photo of Captain Elizabeth Steindel, which appeared in the Daily Press on April 11, 1943. (Courtesy of Fort Monroe.)

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.

On a map of Fort Monroe during the time of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Fort Monroe archivist Ali Kolleda points out where the Post Hospital and matrons' quarters were upon entering the fort's main gate.
On a map of Fort Monroe during the time of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Fort Monroe archivist Ali Kolleda points out where the Post Hospital and matrons’ quarters were upon entering the fort’s main gate.

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.”

Reconstruction Aide Lois Clifford, pictured in the Pittsburgh Daily Post on Dec. 26, 1919. Clifford published manuels, such as on weaving, as part of occupational therapy training. (Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe.)
Reconstruction Aide Lois Clifford, pictured in the Pittsburgh Daily Post on Dec. 26, 1919. Clifford published manuels, such as on weaving, as part of occupational therapy training. (Photo courtesy of Fort Monroe.)

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.

VHS team member supports local families at holidays

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

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

He started his holiday help program three years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to help

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

Donations can be made at:

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

Dietary at ‘heart’ of VHS independent, assisted living communities and nursing centers

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.”

In other words, from James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Dining Services Manager Linda Jones, “Dietary rocks!”

Teresa Bowen is the dietary manager at Coliseum.

Jones, who has worked for VHS for 27 years, says it’s a privilege to be a part of the team.

“I’ve learned a lot, and had a lot of good people to teach me,” she says. “It’s challenging but it’s rewarding. Your heart has to be with the Residents.”

The Dietary Manager at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Teresa Bowen, says, “I like the Residents. Working in a place like this, unlike a restaurant, they appreciate what you do for them.”

Unlike in fast food job where you might just flip a hamburger, “we do way more than that!”

Meal preparation

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.

Venzel Snead is a cook at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

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!”

The James River team, led by Linda Jones (left), recently rolled out a continental breakfast for Residents that they enjoyed.

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.”

Chef Akira Johnston prepares meals on the line at The Arbors Independent Living.

Senior living

At The Arbors Independent Living, and The Hamilton and The Huntington Assisted Living, there are a few more choices in dining. Chef Akira Johnston and her team change the menu monthly to keep dishes and choices fresh for the Residents of The Arbors.

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.

The dining and dietary team at The Hamilton Assisted Living helped pull off a fun “Cheeseburger in Paradise” party for AL Week in September.

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

“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.

Physician Assistant with VHS loves ‘being a healer’

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.”

Patient care

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.

Physician Assistant Cindee Hawkins works primarily out of Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“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.”

VHS focuses on career development, promotion from within

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drawn to senior care

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

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

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

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

Promoting from within

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

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

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

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

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

VHS is committed to workforce development and promotes from within.

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

Join our team

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

Coliseum’s Plant Operations Director to retire after 40 years of service

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.

“This is my space,” Luwanda Palmer says of the room where Residents’ clothing and other laundered items are kept.

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.”

Personal history

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.”

The industrial washing machines at Coliseum, and all VHS facilities, are always going to keep items clean and fresh.

EVS Week

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.

You can join our team! View our openings and apply at

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.

July apprenticeship graduates employed across all seven VHS nursing and rehabilitation centers

Virginia Health Services celebrated its most recent apprenticeship graduates with a ceremony in the shade of Port Warwick’s Styron Square on Friday.

The 16 graduates (one was unable to attend Friday’s ceremony) are employed across all seven VHS nursing and rehabilitation centers, from the Peninsula to Gloucester and the Northern Neck.

They started as Temporary Nurse Aides under a short-term program developed by the government to help staff the centers. The program expired at the beginning of June and the TNAs were enrolled in Virginia Health Services’ earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship.

VHS Vice President of Nursing Rebecca Boyd addresses the graduates and their friends and family members during Friday’s ceremony.

The apprentice program trains Care Assistants to graduate to Nurse Aides, and it covers the cost of the certification exam to be a CNA. VHS is proud to have developed this class to be CNAs in its facilities.

The class was instructed by VHS Director of Education Princess Henderson at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Nora Gillespie at the Education Center.

They proudly presented each graduate with a certificate of course completion, and Vice President of Nursing Rebecca Boyd gave each grad their new ID badge. The students had a condensed version of the apprenticeship, balancing time on the floor with 14 days of classroom work that included tests and perfecting 22 skills.

The graduates

The class of 16 was driven, committed to learning, and passionate and professional about the work. Henderson and Gillespie piled on the praise of the graduates so their friends and family members in attendance understood just how hard they worked to get to graduation day.

James River graduates: Tatyana Beale (salutatorian), Deaundra Eley, Clare Kingsley, Audra Lewis (valedictorian), Ashlee Newsome, Danyell Robinson and Jayda Taliaferro.

Education Center: Kayla Bromley, Miranda Frank (salutatorian), Shawntez Hill, Tyler Lowery, Alexis Panzer, Sarah Sulik (valedictorian), Shynerria Walker, Shakina White and Noel Williamson.


James River valedictorian Audra Lewis with instructor Princess Henderson.

James River class valedictorian Audra Lewis addressed her classmates and audience with a short speech thanking Henderson and Gillespie and complimenting her peers.

“Today we acknowledge the hard work and show our instructors, our family and ourselves that we are ready to enter into the next phase of our careers and academic lives. …

“We can celebrate this accomplishment as one. … Not a single one of us did it alone. We came together cohesively and were guided and encouraged by our wonderful instructors and mentors. … I look forward to what the future holds for each of us.”

Education Center valedictorian Sarah Sulik with instructor Nora Gillespie.

The valedictorian from the Education Center, Sarah Sulik, presented a letter read by Gillespie.

“It was an honor to get to know each of you over the course of this class,” the letter read. “Our success was a collaborative effort of not only to ourselves, but our brilliant teacher Ms. Nora. …

“When I started this class, I didn’t realize the potential I had, but the gracious Ms. Nora helped me realize I can achieve anything I put my mind to. I still have progress to make, but what I have learned in this course is something I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

Valedictorian Sarah Sulik hugs instructor Nora Gillespie during Friday’s ceremony.

Next class

Our next earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship class begins in August. All the slots are taken, but interested applicants can apply for the September class starting Aug. 15 at Look for the Care Assistant job description.

The class begins Sept. 19 and will include five weeks of classroom and on-the-floor instruction.

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.”