Virginia Health Services recruiter Colleen Reynolds began a monthly road tour of our nursing and rehabilitation centers in January. It continues in June and July.
The Recruiting Roadshow will give applicants a chance to apply and interview in person at our locations in Newport News, Hampton, York County, Gloucester and Kilmarnock. Job candidates can see our centers and get a feel for where they are applying.
“I want to make myself more visible to team members and applicants in each building,” Colleen says.
The increased presence should better support new hires and identify team needs.
Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 9 a.m.-noon, Friday, June 23.
Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Friday, June 23.
York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Hamilton Assisted Living, 9 a.m.-noon Monday, June 26.
Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Monday, June 26.
James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday, June 27.
The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Huntington Assisted Living, 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday, June 28.
Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, June 28.
Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 9 a.m.-noon, Friday, July 21.
Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Friday, July 21.
York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Hamilton Assisted Living, 9 a.m.-noon Monday, July 24.
Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Monday, July 24.
James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday, July 25.
The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Huntington Assisted Living, 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday, July 26.
Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, July 26.
How to be a successful applicant
Colleen shared ways to stand out among job applicants to Virginia Health Services. She sees hundreds of applications and conducts about 15 phone interviews a day. Make yourself standout.
“I’ll take a chance on people for a phone interview if the application looks like a professional effort was made. If you’re not making the effort in the application, hard to think you’ll put an effort into the work. Put your best foot forward to get to the interview process and sell yourself,” Colleen says.
Complete all application questions.
Spelling and grammar should be correct.
Create a professional email address to use when applying. Use your correct contact information so you are reachable.
Have a professional resume (regardless of work history).
List any transferable skills
Be professional (avoid personal details)
List work experience
For those with limited or no work history, such as high school students, please list any part-time work experience or have an objective statement with a career goal listed. Be sure to include school and graduation date.
How to successfully interview by phone
Research Virginia Health Services (information is easily accessible at vahs.com). Colleen says, “Tell me why you want to work for VHS and what you know. Take the time to visit the website. I always ask, ‘why do you want to work for Virginia Health Services?’”
Ask questions about the job and company.
Read the job description so you can best speak to how your qualities and skills make you the right fit for the job to which you are applying. Talk up your skills – hard (like clinicals) or soft (such as organization and time management).
Be on time. Answer the phone. Give advance notice if possible to cancel. “Life happens, but keep it at a professional level at all times,” Colleen says.
Know your resume. Clarify when you were licensed. Colleen says, “Know your own work history and those important dates.”
Send a thank you message to follow up to everyone you spoke to.
How to successfully interview in person
Be on time.
Dress business casual for an in-person or virtual interview.
Be prepared. Know your work history.
Present yourself in a professional way.
Be prepared with questions. Ask about the position or VHS. “You have to make sure it’s a good fit for you the same as we need to make sure it’s a good fit for the company. … You have to make sure you know where you’re going,” Colleen says. (This applies to phone interviews as well.)
Send a thank you message to follow up.
“Everyone serves a purpose on the team,” Colleen says. “Tell me how you think you’ll fit in the organization and what you bring to the team.”
Join our team
Explore career paths with Virginia Health Services and apply online at vahs.com/careers.
Six members of the apprenticeship class graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides during a ceremony held Friday, April 28, 2023, at The Arbors Independent Living.
A crowd of friends and family joined the graduates to celebrate their achievement, along with members from the Virginia Health Services corporate office in human resources, Vice President of Operations Don Lundin and President/CEO Mark Klyczek.
The 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. They are hired as Nurse Aides in VHS facilities – this class will work at Northampton, The Newport, Walter Reed and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers – and will undergo reviews with the team at the education center to prepare for the state exam.
Mark welcomed and congratulated the class.
“Graduation is always a fun thing to do. It’s the first step in your career in healthcare,” he said. “We want to help you keep moving on in patient care.”
Director of Education and class leader Princess Henderson, RN, added: “It’s only up from here!”
The six members of the class attended what instructor Nora Gillespie, RN, calls “CNA bootcamp.” They learned 22 skills and took 14 tests over the course of six weeks.
Nora and Princess praised the graduates. Two members of the class are planning to enroll in nursing school.
Victoria Artis “rocked out clinicals,” Princess said. She listens to her Residents.
Princess said Jadan Byrd worked hard every day and has a heart for this kind of work.
Elle Koller was a “ray of sunshine,” according to Princess. The salutatorian made the Residents feel loved.
Nora recruited Elle during a feeding class at Walter Reed the Thursday before the class began. Elle was supported by her Walter Reed team and VHS to enroll in the class that following Monday. She plans to be in nursing school this summer.
“Now you know you want to be a nurse because you know you can do it,” Nora said of Ebony Spaulding.
“She’s flexible; very go-with-the-flow,” Princess said.
Valedictorian Tennille Warren is “calm and level-headed,” Princess said. She wants to be a doula.
Michelle White, who was awarded the clinical superlative for mastering blood pressure by Princess, “places her focus on the Residents,” Nora said.
Michelle created a sash for her friend Tennille to wear while giving her valedictorian message.
“I want to thank my teachers for pushing me to keep going,” Tennille said. She plans to enroll in classes to further her nursing education at ECPI.
“We want our students to be successful,” Nora said to close out the ceremony. “Princess and I look for where we can reach you to make you the best you can be. You’ve got to have heart and care about what you do. We’re very proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
Princess said the class came together to get one another across the finish line.
“I’m proud of your team work,” she said.
Apply to be an apprentice
Our next class of apprentices start May 15. Applications for the July class will open in June and are available online at vahs.com/apprenticeship.
A lot of Virginia Health Services employees will share they find working for the organization to be like family. For the Cofields, it’s literally true.
Five members of the Cofield family are also team members at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Angel Cofield is the business office manager, Catesha is a nurse scheduler, LaToria is a nurse aide, LaToya is MDS, and brother Dominique works in the dietary department.
Three sisters, Angel, Catesha and LaToya, have been part of the VHS family for a long time, working at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and at then-Coliseum Park before its 2013 purchase by VHS.
LaToria completed the apprenticeship program to become a CNA, and is working toward her certification exam. She started in dietary before moving to laundry and housekeeping. She says she was encouraged to enroll in the earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program to keep growing with the company.
You’d think spending so much time together, between work and home, would wear on their relationship. But all said it makes them stronger, they push each other harder to be better.
“We’re so used (to being together) it doesn’t bother us to work together too,” Angel says. “We bicker, but we push each other. We can vent to each other.”
That sentiment is echoed by family members.
“My mom raised the six of us to be close …” Catesha says. “We’re used to it. … if we get tired of each other, we just go in our room. It’s good; it don’t bother us because we’re so close.”
The pandemic pulled the team at Coliseum together as a whole, Angel says. “You get that family feel throughout the company.”
“All of my siblings have such great work ethic,” Angel says. “I admire their skills.”
Career development as a team
The support for continued education really helps VHS stand out among other companies.
“Dudley was definitely a great teacher. She’s inspirational,” Angel says.
LaToria says Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas is encouraging her to explore options, and Catesha says she’d love to see her sister go to school to be an LPN or RN. Catesha says she also is debating going through the Administrator-in-Training (AIT) program. She was named Team Member of the Year at the facility.
“You want to stand out, you go that extra mile,” Angel says of the family being overachievers.
Catesha says it took some time for her to realize she could be a good mentor.
“I tell people that I see who have attitudes, I try to talk to them. I tell my story, how I was, and it resonates with them. It’s my purpose, I can mentor someone, even if it’s just one person I can touch,” Catesha says.
Angel says most of her best friends she has gotten to know through VHS.
“It’s like a family feel. I know everybody, I’ve been here forever. This is like home to me,” Catesha says.
Their family is originally from eastern North Carolina, in the Edenton area.
“We moved as a unit,” Angel says of her family. “It’s a coincidence(ish) we all wound up here.”
Join our team
Join our team and be part of the family. We have positions available in nursing, dietary, housekeeping, custodial, accounting and more. Visit vahs.com/careers to see our available openings and apply.
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.
Virginia Health Services hosted a graduation ceremony Thursday, March 2, 2023, for its five apprentices. They graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides, and will have to pass the state board certification exam to become a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA).
The five apprentices were part of the VHS earn-as-you-learn program. Students are paid to attend class and graduate with a job within the company. The apprenticeship also covers the cost of the certification exam.
The five graduates will work at Northampton, The Newport and James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.
“It’s not often everyone in my class touches my heart, but you all did,” said instructor Nora Gillespie, RN.
Tiffany Colbourne (co-salutatorian), Eldreelnette (Ellie) Kpabla, Ke’Asia Jones, Joshai Smith (valedictorian) and Janelle Robinson (co-salutatorian) had to pass 14 tests and learn 22 skills during the course of about six weeks. The combination of classwork and clinicals allowed the students to put what they learned to the test while working with patients at James River.
“Your potential is limitless. You’re all great young ladies and were amazing during clinicals,” said Director of Education Princess Henderson, RN. “You really fought for your residents’ rights!”
Nora refers to the apprenticeship program as “CNA bootcamp” because of its intensity.
“You were wonderful,” she told the graduates. “But your job’s not done. You still have to review with Princess and I to prepare and pass state boards.”
The students were complimented on their focus, interest and camaraderie.
Joshai congratulated her fellow graduates in her valedictorian remarks.
“The past few weeks have been life changing as we learned the skills to become CNAs. Despite learning a lot of information to retain in a short amount of time, we all achieved it with each other. We all made it across the finish line; we should all be proud of ourselves. …
“Being in the CNA program has opened the door to new possibilities for our futures.”
Join our team
Applications for our May class will open April 3. Our next class starts March 20. Visit vahs.com/apprenticeship for program details and to apply when applications are open.
“This program is unique,” Nora said during the ceremony. “Students have jobs when they finish the program. They are paid to attend class. There are lots of opportunities at VHS for apprentices.
“Mine and Princess’s goal is to make you the best you can be.”
Virginia Health Services is proud to share two of our apprentices were selected as Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP) All-Stars by Argentum.
Shawn Hill and Valentina Zakieva are two of five selected All-Stars nationally. They were featured in Argentum’s January/February Senior Living Executive magazine and will honored during the Senior Living Executive Conference in New Orleans in May.
They were 2022 participants in Virginia Health Services’ earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program that graduates Care Assistants to Nurse Aides and covers the cost of the certification exam to be a CNA.
Valentina graduated the program in February 2022 and was placed at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She passed her certification exam in the spring and over the summer earned her Registered Medication Aide (RMA) license.
Shawn, who graduated to Nurse Aide in the July 2022 cohort, was studying for the certification exam while at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center when a different opportunity came available. He recently moved into an activity assistant role at Coliseum, working with Residents in a different way.
They were nominated to the All-Star program by members of the VHS education center.
“These apprentices exemplified a commitment to service,” said Janet Andrews, Argentum’s HAEP Grant Program Manager, in a written statement. “The testimonies shared depicted the character of those willing to go the extra mile. Those that care for the communities they serve with excellence.”
The smallest tasks matter
Valentina Zakieva was the salutatorian of her 2022 cohort. She was working at York in the dietary department for six months prior and was encouraged to enroll by Dining Manager Nicole Freeman.
She says she appreciates the teamwork it takes across departments to provide the best possible care to the Residents at York and The Hamilton Assisted Living.
“This honor means people trust me,” she says. “My patients and coworkers like me and see how we work as a team to put our patients first.”
She and her husband moved to the U.S. from Russia. She is originally from Kazakhstan. It wasn’t until the move to the States that Valentina found herself drawn to healthcare.
“My background is international relations, but healthcare is in demand in the U.S.,” she says. “I like to help people.”
She says she had a good experience in the apprenticeship program under the instruction of Nora Gillespie, RN, and Director of Education Princess Henderson, RN. She adds the team at the education center helped her review for the certification exam – “I felt very prepared,” she says – and apply for opportunities within VHS.
Valentina says she takes pride in caring for her Residents and encourages new students in the apprenticeship to “look at the big picture.”
“My background is international relations, but healthcare is in demand in the U.S. I like to help people.”
That means, even if it’s a task that may fall to another department, if it is in the Resident’s interest, take care of it. That could mean taking out the trash or replacing a roll of toilet paper.
“And you have to listen to them. They need you and you want to make them feel good. Brush their hair, get them dressed, take pride and care in what you’re doing,” she says. “If they’re happy, we’re happy.”
She says she’s not stopping at CNA/RMA. She is waiting for documentation issues to be resolved for her to enroll in nursing school.
What path does she want to take?
“Of course, RN,” she says with a smile.
Helping Residents creatively
Shawn Hill graduated in the July 2022 cohort and was working at Coliseum as a Nurse Aide when the activity assistant position became available. He was drawn to working with Residents in that capacity because of his interest in arts and crafts – any avenue that allows him to be creative.
“I’m a very creative person. I’ve been doing arts and crafts since kindergarten. I enjoy being around the senior population, have since I was a boy, so it’s been destined to happen. Our Residents love music. They love Bingo.
“I’m still interacting with the Residents, just on a different level.”
He still intends on going to VHS-offered reviews and taking his certification exam to be a CNA.
“I’m not going to give that up. I still have to take the test,” he says.
Shawn says he appreciates the encouragement he has gotten from everyone across departments and facilities at VHS.
“These people really know how to share their heart. I was doing it so long by myself, to get help from the place I work was very touching.”
Shawn Hill of his holiday collections for those in need
“They tell me I’m doing a good job, even if I’ve had a tough day,” he says, referring to Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas and Assistant Administrator Haley Holland.
He carried his holiday donation tradition to VHS last year, collecting donations of toys and gift cards to distribute to those in need.
“It was so good,” he said. “These people really know how to share their heart. I was doing it so long by myself, to get help from the place I work was very touching. I’d love to expand it and involve more of our team members.”
The apprenticeship and recognition its brought has “meant a whole lot,” he says. “I live by, ‘if you work hard, you never know what will happen.’
“It’s been good all the way through (with Virginia Health Services), from when I first got hired.”
About the program
VHS’s apprenticeship program is done in partnership with Argentum and Hamilton-Ryker, with help from a grant from the Department of Labor. Applications for the next earn-as-you-learn course open Feb. 6. Our six-week courses run throughout the year and details and how to apply can be found at vahs.com/apprenticeship.
Two students enrolled in dietetics programs are completing necessary internship rotations with Virginia Health Services. Their goal is to graduate this spring and be Registered Dietitians.
Ella Bowen, a student with Virginia Tech, and Sarah Cuffee, a student with Virginia State University, are doing their food service management rotations at The Hamilton Assistant Living with dining services manager Nicole Freeman. They had to complete a special project, with a catering focus, during the rotation.
Both cook and do other work in the kitchen during their rotation, serving Hamilton and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Residents. They work with Nicole on their competencies, which they’ll need to complete as part of their program.
Nicole had several ideas for dining programs at The Hamilton that Ella and Sarah could plan and execute.
“Nicole is the mastermind,” Sarah said.
They catered lunch for a meeting of the VHS leadership team and Board members. They hosted a reception – a “Captain’s Feast” – at the Residents’ request for Assistant Administrator Joel Batista, who recently joined The Hamilton team.
And on Friday, they had a Fried Egg Competition and cooked eggs to order during a special breakfast for the Residents. Activity Director Kirstie Saunders said the event even drew out Residents who don’t usually come to the dining room for the meal.
Ella and Sarah collaborated with Nicole on menus, ideas and presentation.
“This has been a good experience here,” Ella said. “Nicole has been very supportive and helpful.”
In addition to frying up eggs and serving them Friday, Ella made a berry breakfast cobbler from scratch for the special breakfast. She is a diet tech with Virginia Health Services, joining the team in September.
Her next rotation will be her elective, clinical care, which she will complete with VHS Director of Dining and Nutrition Viki Reynolds. Ella will learn to do care plans, interview patients, perform weight checks and do assessments.
She is interested in continuing in long-term care once she graduates and passes the certification to be a Registered Dietitian.
“Several members of my family have had diabetes,” she said. “I eventually want to be a diabetes educator and work with those with cardiovascular disease and obesity.”
The Norfolk native felt drawn to being a Registered Dietitian because of her family’s history with diabetes and other illnesses.
“I don’t feel like the public knows the how your health is affected by your diet. I want to work in education, likely diabetes education in an outpatient setting,” she said.
Join our Team
We have openings on our dietary team for aides, cooks, a dietary manager and a registered dietitian. To apply, visit vahs.com/careers. VHS helps its team members live their best life, offering competitive wages and benefits in a supportive community that focuses on continuing education of its workforce.
We are celebrating National Activity Professionals Week (Jan. 23-27) by spotlighting our Activity Directors at Virginia Health Services senior living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers.
Activity directors run recreation programs that are Resident-focused. Event and activities cater to Residents’ tastes and activity directors receive Residents’ input. The programs help Residents exercise their cognitive, sensory and motor skills.
Activity directors also drive employee engagement within their communities, helping with team-centered events and activities to bolster morale and provide stress relief.
It’s not just fun and games! As our Activity Directors describe in their Q&As below, they are an integral part of care planning for Residents.
Meet our Activity Directors:
Sarah Allen, Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 2 years (1 year in activities).
What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I was ready for a change. (Sarah was a concierge at Coliseum before moving to activities.)
How do you support the community’s team and Residents? At Coliseum, we are always coming up with new fun things to do. Our office door is always open for anyone who wants to come visit us. I love the relationships we get to build with staff and Residents.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The paperwork and meetings! Everyone thinks we just get to play games, but it’s not.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Activity Connection, Facebook and Pinterest.
What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo! Plus, any food or music programs and church.
Personal details: I tell others that I get to come to work to have fun. Seeing my Residents smile and say how much they had at a program just makes me very happy.
Shawn Hanberry, James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: Almost 7 years. (I have 26 years of activities experience.)
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? Volunteering. My mother was a CNA at what was called Heritage Place Assisted Living in Poquoson (which is now Dominion Village of Poquoson) in the earlier years of her career and instead of getting a babysitter she would bring me to work with her. I volunteered in the activities department there and when I was in high school, I was a bingo volunteer through the Key Club.
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? Always treat everyone as equals and you will go far.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The amount of charting.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From my Residents and what they like.
Amber Watson, Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 3.5 months.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I have always had a big heart for the elderly. I became a CNA and worked private cases and in nursing homes for six years until the pandemic. At that time, I decided to stay home with my kids. When my kids returned to school, I returned to work, searching for activity director openings. I thought, “how cool and fun it would be to do fun things with elders and keep them active?”
How do you support the community’s team and Residents? I love supporting my Team Members! Helping them in any way shape or form, I always have a lending hand for my work family.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? There’s a lot of paperwork! We have a lot of fun in activities, but there is a lot of daily paperwork too.
What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? My Residents are very hands on! Any activity that involves everyone having a good time enjoying themselves, best believe they will be there. They really love arts and crafts, and social get togethers.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? I have five kids and they love to help with activity ideas for the Residents. I also get ideas from Pinterest and from the Residents themselves.
Personal details: I am 30 years old. I was born in New Jersey, but have lived in Virginia since I was 7. My husband and I have been together 13 years and we have five kids (three girls and two boys, ages 2, 5, 7, 10 and 13). We recently moved to Topping in August 2022.
Charlene Craig, Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
I have been with Virginia Health Services for 33 years. I started off as a nursing assistant in 1989 then started with activities in 2020. I am a team player with the staff and enjoy one-on-one visits with Residents, and bringing a smile to everyone’s face. I get my inspiration from my peers. In my spare time, I like to hang out with my dogs and have my own paint business with my man.
Jamel DeCosta, The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 2 years.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I’ve always enjoyed the elderly. I guess it’s due to being raised by my grandmother.
How do you support the community’s team and Residents? Pitching in where ever needed.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The relationships between the staff and Residents.
What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo, painting and cornhole.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Friends and family, especially my 10-year-old grandson.
Personal details: I am a mother of two and grandmother of four. I enjoy entertaining, crafting, decorating and shopping.
Julie Boothe, Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
This is my 29th year at Walter Reed in the recreational therapy field. It is more like family than a job. I have always stated the God gave me the gift of caring, which drew me to taking care of my elders and those who would benefit. My job is adapting activities to suit each individual’s needs to make their life the best it can be.
The community plays a very important role in helping achieve social wellbeing. We are starting to spring out of COVID and back into routine. Community members and organizations come in and provide music, church services, games, gardening, crafts, entertainment and more for our Residents. We also have individual volunteers who help with in-house activities, socials, transportation and more. We are blessed to have all the community and volunteer support we do.
You will never know how the littlest of things can make a Resident feel so very important. As we all know, it takes a lot to provide total care of an individual and all the team members here do what they can to help meet our Residents’ needs daily. I deeply care for all of our Residents, team members, and volunteers for all they do.
As much as I cherish my Walter Reed life, I also cherish my family, from my mother, husband, sons and their families, my sisters and their families, to my two grandchildren. We have passed down our caring hearts to our grandchildren, who are very caring to others. We are all outdoors people and spend most of our time there. We like to hike, work outdoors and take care of our animals. We have turkeys, chickens, goats, dogs and cats.
I consider myself blessed by God as he uses me to help others. Stay active and live life to the fullest.
Mary Garrity, York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 6 (in March).
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? The elderly always had a place in my heart. I started my career at a senior center 20-plus years ago and have worked in several long-term facilities. I love to see the Residents happy and smiling, I love to challenge the Residents with word games and trivia, and I love to see the Residents dancing and singing.
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? I support the team by helping wherever I can, having dress-down days, games and contests for the staff and Residents. We have become family and do whatever they need or want.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Of all the many hats we wear, we help by serving meals, getting water for the Residents, being a good listener … all the little things that Residents need, including decorating for Christmas and other holidays.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From the Residents’ likes and dislikes. Every facility is different and has different cultures. I use online resources like Activity Connection and share ideas with other activity professionals.
Personal details: I love going to the beach, reading, interior decorating and furniture restoration.
Quianna Terrell, The Arbors Independent Living
Years with Virginia Health Services: Almost two months.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? I was always interested in being around seniors. It wasn’t until two years ago while I was in California, I was filling in for our activity director and I just thought her job was so fun and exciting. Being able to plan and execute daily activities for Residents was definitely something I knew I would be great at doing.
How do you support the community’s team and Residents? By always being attentive to my team and Residents, and always being a team player.
Where do you find ideas/inspirations for activities? First and foremost, from my Residents. If you just sit and talk with them for a little, you will discover a lot from them. I also get inspirations from Facebook groups and Pinterest.
What type of activities do your Residents enjoy the most? My Residents really enjoy crafting, painting, trivia and bingo!
Personal details: Being an activity director and being able to implement programs on the calendar is more than just that. I am up close and personal with the Residents. They confide in me and they count on me to do a great job in making their lives more enjoyable and fun. The bonds that I have created while being in this position is more than I could ask for. The smiles and joy on my Residents’ faces after a program, the “thank you” and the “great job Quianna” makes everything I do worth it.
Kirstie Saunders, The Hamilton Assisted Living
Years with Virginia Health Services: 1 year in March.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? As a teen I attended church camp in Lynchburg. We had to choose somewhere to volunteer in the community and I chose the nursing home and loved it! I also have family in healthcare who helped guide me along the way and support me in my career.
How do you support the community’s team and Residents? I like to help make it feel like home. I listen to Resident and team ideas and brainstorm to make things come to life. The motto “Love where you live and love where you work” is what I strive for, both for the Residents and our team.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? That I drive the bus!
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? First and foremost, the Residents. They enjoy trying new things so I enjoy brainstorming with other professionals, finding ideas from Pinterest and Instagram, and implementing them into our community.
What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? They love to help care for Mr. Hamilton, our community rabbit. We named the area he lives in The Gathering Place and you can always find folks there forming bonds by chatting or singing.
Personal details: I have been married for 18 years and have a son and two Australian Shepard dogs. I enjoy boating, beaching and fishing with my family.
Devyn Hotop, The Huntington Assisted Living
Years with VHS: I was a CNA for about a year and have been the Huntington Activities Director for two months.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in senior living? During my time as a CNA one of my favorite things to do was to watch the Residents engage in the various activities that were provided. I loved seeing the Residents happy and I knew this position would be the perfect way to express my creativity while helping others!
How do you support the community’s team and residents? I always try to pitch in and help out both the Residents and staff whenever I can! I also make sure to be someone that our Residents can go and talk to.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? I think it would surprise others how much this position helps you get to know the Residents in a different way. The activities bring out so much personality in them, even the shy ones!
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Asking the Residents what they like and dislike helps me find a lot of inspiration. I also love using Pinterest and other social media to get different and interesting ideas for activities that I would have never thought of on my own.
What types of activities do your Residents enjoy most? Bingo is definitely the biggest hit, but they also really enjoy socials and music entertainment as well.
Personal details: In my free time I love to thrift, paint, and go outside with my Aussie and boyfriend!
Join the team!
We are looking for Activity Professionals to join our team. Visit vahs.com/careers to view the job description and apply.
Virginia Health Services President & CEO Mark Klyczek and Director of Education Princess Henderson, RN, were featured on an episode of “The Indicator,” a podcast about work and money on NPR.
The conversation with host Wailin Wong focused on VHS’s apprenticeship program, in which students earn as they learn in graduating to Nurse Aides and are supported through taking the state certification exam to be a CNA.