One Nurse Inspires Another

All of us can likely think of a significant event in our lives that changed us forever. For Jenni Johnson, RN on 4 East at Johnston-Willis Hospital, that event was the medical miracle of her only child’s, Wyatt’s, first year of life in 1995.

Baby Wyatt

Baby Wyatt

Jenni knew something was wrong with Wyatt’s breathing right away, but her pediatrician at the time suggested all was normal. Jenni insisted that more evaluation was needed so she brought him to Dr. Mary Falterman, Pediatric Cardiologist, who diagnosed Wyatt with a coarctation of the aorta, a congenital condition where the heart’s aorta is twisted like a sock, blocking 99% of the flow of blood. At the time Wyatt was 2.5 months old and weighed only 13 pounds. Jenni brought him to HCA’s Henrico Doctors’ Hospital where they cared for her baby for three months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and, later, the Pediatric floor. During the long hospitalization, Dr. Gary Laughlin did the surgery to repair the aorta and put a band on his pulmonary artery.

Three days after his operation, Wyatt was being cared for Lori Stump, RN. Today, Lori is a nurse at Chippenham’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after working for nearly 40 years in the profession. But on that day in 1995 Lori knew something was wrong with baby Wyatt. She called a Code Blue, signaling significant respiratory distress, and for 90 minutes she and the team worked to revive Wyatt and place a breathing tube to stabilize him. In the meantime, Jenni waited anxiously to hear an update on her baby’s condition. Lori eventually came to the waiting room, sat in the chair next to her, and said, “We got him back.” Even today, as Lori and Jenni shared their story with me, they get choked up relaying the details. It was as if they have been dear friends for many years. They both shared as a nurse you sometimes don’t realize the impact you have on your patients. This event was a great reminder.

Lori & Wyatt at Chippenham's PICU

Lori & Wyatt at Chippenham’s PICU

Eventually Wyatt fully recovered and has since led a healthy life. Recently he graduated from high school and is now attending John Tyler Community College with plans to transfer to Virginia Tech and graduate with a degree in nuclear engineering. Jenni always remembered how important Lori was to the care of her son so she orchestrated a surprise reunion where Wyatt dressed up in his cap and gown and showed up at Chippenham Hospital to celebrate his graduation with flowers and gifts. It was a perfect way to acknowledge Lori’s tremendous impact. Lori never forgets her patients like Wyatt. All these years later she recognized him from the infant she cared for in 1995.

Jenni & Lori

Lori & Jenni

Lori has done more than save Wyatt’s life. She inspires others. Jenni is quick to share that Lori is a role model for all nurses. Lori takes the responsibility of role model seriously and commented, “It is who you are, you have to nurture and create these bonds. Not everyone can do that.” In 2014, Lori achieved an elite certification as a RN Clinician 5, the highest achievement in skills at HCA.

Jenni shared her personal journey to becoming a nurse, which wasn’t until her late 30’s. She had dropped out of high school after the 9th grade and has lived on her own since she was 16. Eventually she got her GED. She always loved taking care of people and was managing an automotive shop where she was miserable in her career. She persevered and completed an associates RN program at J. Sargent Reynolds Community College while working full time to support her family. She was quickly promoted to clinical nurse coordinator by her Chief Nurse Officer, Sandy Aderholt, who saw something special during her first two years as an RN. Today, Jenni is actively working towards her Bachelor’s degree and plans to go on to get her Masters. She has her mind set on becoming a Chief Nurse Officer within 10 years.

I asked Jenni what she learned through the early experience with Wyatt’s health crises. She said, “Follow your gut instinct and always be an advocate for your own child.” Lori added, “Parents know best. A great nurse listens to the family. You really need to develop a personal relationship especially in pediatrics. You are taking care of not just the child, but also the mother and father. As a nurse you have to overextend yourself all the time. I will always be a bedside nurse taking care of patients. That is why I was put on this earth.”

It is an awesome responsibility to be a caregiver in an acute hospital setting. The 18 year story between Jenni and Lori is another reminder of the kindness, compassion, and excellence that embodies our nursing team at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals.

Terry Harver: CJW’s Resident Artist

Recently, I was doing rounds to visit with staff and patients and had the opportunity to run 20141023 Terry Harver2into something totally unexpected – a spectacular mural covering the walls and ceilings of two pre-operatory rooms in same-day surgery. I was quickly greeted by some of the department’s nursing team who shared with me that one of their own nurses, Terry Harver, RN, painted these to brighten up the area for pediatric patients. It took her over 22 hours to paint it. It was a great reminder that we have so much hidden talent and creativity on the Chippenham & Johnston-Willis (CJW) team. I am fortunate to see the healthcare-related talents of our team every day, but I don’t often get to see a totally different talent like artistic ability.

Terry HarverTerry grew up nearby in Crewe, Virginia and has been a nurse with us since graduating nursing school in 1977. She has worked in several other areas of CJW including Chippenham’s ER and Johnston’s Willis’s Women’s unit. I asked her about her interest in painting and she shared that she wanted to go to art school when she was young but her father got sick and disabled so she had to change paths. She was inspired to become a nurse because her grandmother and role model, was an RN.

In recent years Terry has spent a lot more of her free time painting mostly still-life with pets and landscapes with oils and pastels. She especially enjoys doing murals for children’s bedrooms and other locations. Her artwork has been shown in the Chesterfield and Amelia libraries. Recently, she donated a piece to the March of Dimes auction that helped fund scholarships. She was quick to share that as she gets older her abilities have gotten better and she plans to do this in retirement as both a hobby and a business.

Terry was inspired to paint the CJW murals to create a comforting and distracting wall artatmosphere because she knows that children often come in afraid and anxious. Patients get to choose which of the two rooms they would like to wait in for their surgery. Her hope is that it gives them something else to think about during that stressful time. The response has been incredible with people quickly becoming a fan of her work and the new look in the department. Her next project in same-day surgery is a “tree of knowledge” in the staff rooms. She is asking the staff to tell her which kind of bird they would like to be represented by on the mural.

I asked her why she likes to paint and she responded simply, “I like the creativity. It is an amazing opportunity to give of yourself and allows me to leave a legacy for my children.”

So this week Cheers to Terry for contributing to CJW in a way that we will enjoy for many years to come. If you are interested in talking to her about her work she can be reached at 804-356-1306.

Barbara Stannard, Her Personal Journey Fighting Breast Cancer

You can’t watch NFL football this month without noticing the bright pink shoes in honor of breast cancer awareness month. Most of us have someone in our own family or immediate group of friends who has been challenged with this disease. Thankfully, early detection is better than ever with enhanced diagnosis and treatment. A recent technological advancement is the new state-of-the-art Tomosynthesis 3D imaging which is a notable upgrade to traditional digital, 2D mammography. This technology is able to assess dense breast tissue and identify potential abnormalities better than ever before. HCA’s Johnston-Willis and Henrico Doctors’ Hospital are the first and only hospitals in Richmond metropolitan area to have this technology.

This week I wanted to make breast cancer more personal so I asked for an employee who would be willing to share their personal story. RN Barbara Standard’s name quickly came to light not only for her personal fight against breast cancer, but also because of her role as our Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator. She has been in this role for 6 years and been an oncology nurse for over 30 with HCA. As the Navigator, Barbara reaches out to women who have initial abnormal findings in their mammogram to ensure they get linked into additional screening and treatment when necessary. The fact is about 30% of mammograms come back abnormal. Thankfully, only 15-20% of those are actually positive for breast cancer.

Barbara Standard

Barbara Standard, RN

In Barbara’s case she was having her routine mammogram on her birthday in 2011. The results came back abnormal and they asked her to come in to have additional imaging views. Dr. Jackie Hogg, radiologist, was intimately involved in the case and coordinated with Dr. Ruth Felson, breast surgeon, to make the final diagnosis of invasive ductile cancer – one of the most common forms of breast cancer. Barbara eventually had six surgeries, including a lumpectomy and mastectomy, in addition to radiation and chemotherapy for a year. Barbara shared with me that as an employee she always knew what a good place Johnston-Willis (JW) Hospital was for care. But after becoming a patient she soon came to realize that it was a really a great place when you are a patient too.

She said, “Once you become a cancer patient it is humbling because what you thought you knew about cancer was really not that much. It was very enlightening and gave me a different perspective. Coming to an advanced breast cancer center like JW was really important.  It puts in place all the right people and the latest technology in one place and walks the patient though all the important steps of getting diagnosed and treated. I was always someone who would schedule my life way in advance. I now know that each day is a blessing. Every day that I get up and put my feet on the floor is a good day. It helped me prioritize my life.”

She emphasized the advice we hear so often but sometimes fail to follow: “Do your mammogram every year and be sure to conduct breast self-exams routinely as recommended by American Cancer Society”. Today, every abnormal mammogram patient gets a personal call from Barbara to talk about next steps. In the past, patients would receive a letter (sometimes on weekends) and be left to figure out what to do next. Thankfully, they now always have Barbara to call.

Barbara emphasizes the importance and power of a strong support network. Through her experience, she came to realize that the employees and doctors at Johnston-Willis were like family. She believes in the importance of getting involved in support groups, like the ones held by Robin Yoder at Johnston-Willis every Wednesday. The first group is for newly diagnosed patients and the second is for long term support.

I asked Barbara what the biggest misconception is about breast cancer and she said, “People think when they hear ‘cancer’ that it’s a death sentence. Once they realize how many survivors there are they get hope. They often think they won’t be able to work but the fact is a lot of people will be able to work through much of the treatment.”

If you want to call Barbara for advice she is willing to help at 804-267-6243. I am pleased to report that today, she is healthy and doing great. If you are a woman over 40 years old, I encourage you to make sure you get your annual mammogram as that is the best way to stay informed about your personal health.

If you would like to share your breast cancer story or experience, please feel free to do so as a reply to the blog.

Imagine a Heart Attack Overseas

Imagine being an experienced, Virginia-based, ICU nurse and finding yourself overseas with a sudden, life-threatening medical crisis. This is exactly what happened to DeWitt Wert. Dewitt has worked for HCA for almost 2 decades, most recently in our Medical/ Surgical ICU at Chippenham Hospital. Prior to his trip, he was overall healthy with no known cardiac issues. That was about to change.

Min & Dewitt in Guangzhou, China

Min & Dewitt in Guangzhou, China

DeWitt and his wife, Min Zhang, an Echo tech at Chippenham, have been married for 6 years. They decided they would make the 23-hour journey to her homeland in Guangzhou, China. This would be his first time meeting his in-laws. After several days of enjoying the culture and sites, Dewitt noticed he was having some discomfort which he thought was related to a previous history of mild esophageal spasms. It turns out these symptoms can mimic some of the classic signs of a heart attack. He thought the discomfort might have been related to all of the touring and enjoying foods he was not accustomed to eating.

Towards the end of the trip, the symptoms became more pronounced after a day with sudden weather changes where the temperature went from 60 to 90 degrees. He took the elevator up to 15th floor and realized he was very hot and felt nauseated. After trying to get the AC on he started getting dizzy and more exhausted. Something wasn’t right. DeWitt assumed he was dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion. His wife wanted him to go see a doctor but he delayed. By morning he hadn’t improved and, after taking his blood pressure and heart rate, he realized he needed to go to a public hospital ER. Imagine how scary it would be to go to a hospital in a different country with a significant language barrier. One of the first things the hospital asked DeWitt for was cash before they would treat him. His bill would end up being over $13,000. He shared that during his stay they wouldn’t even give him a bed pan until he paid for it first. He also had to sign a legal waiver to remove his ability to sue them if things didn’t go well. They gave him a choice of signing the document or taking an aspirin and going home.

They proceeded to take blood samples and an EKG; their initial impression was that he was fine so they didn’t do the whole set of cardiac enzymes. Time passed and they eventually did more tests and started to suspect a Myocardial Infarction (heart attack). Ultimately they would find that he had a 100% blockage in his right coronary artery. Evidence shows that treating a heart attack within 90 minutes is key to survival. Dewitt knew this as an ICU nurse and realized that it had been much longer than that. In fact, he didn’t go into the cath lab for close to 9 hours. He had to make a final decision to pay for the Chinese catheter or pay 10x more for the USA manufactured catheter (he opted for the latter). As Dewitt was wheeled into the get the cardiac cath, which is inserted through the arm, and the balloon pump, which is inserted through the groin, he came to understand that they don’t use any anesthetic for the procedure. In the United States, you are put under an IV-conscious sedation so you don’t feel discomfort and don’t remember the experience. Communication about medication and treatment continued to be a big issue as his Chinese wife only spoke Mandarin not Cantonese, the predominate language at the hospital.

In describing his experience to me DeWitt shared, “At one point I thought I was dying in the hospital prior to getting any treatment. I had a tremendous sense of doom. My wife was praying in my ear. I am not particularly religious but something changed. She told me she didn’t want me to go. I knew I felt a deep and profound love for her. Something changed and I suddenly found peace. I can’t explain it. It felt really good and I knew I was okay with moving on no matter what the outcome. I wanted my wife to come back to tell my unit at Chippenham Hospital just how much they meant to me. It changed me. I am more focused on my kids, my family and now when I am in the unit I take a little extra time to think about what I am saying to be respectful of feelings more so than I ever was before. ”

He is quick to acknowledge that while their care model is very different, they saved his life. They enabled him to come back and continue being a great nurse at our hospital. We are lucky to have him.

Bringing Awareness to Pediatric Cancer

Kathleen Yancey, RN, has been a nurse for almost 20 years with half of her career in Chippenham Hospital’s ER. She is a great nurse with a compassionate heart and we are fortunate to have her on our team. In addition to decades of service to patients and co-workers, Kathleen has also been an extraordinary advocate for pediatric cancer. This passion stems from the heartbreaking reality of losing her teenage son, Justin, to Acute Myleoid Luekemia (AML) after a difficult and courageous four month battle.

Justin & his mom, Kathleen

In 2010, Kathleen was on her way to a family vacation with Justin and his older brother. Justin began spiking a high fever during the trip which led Kathleen to take him to an ER in Georgia. The doctors’ concluded that it was virus and he would be ok so they released him. Time always matters in these situations. Unfortunately, his fever was not brought under control and he was later admitted to another facility where he was properly diagnosed with Leukemia within 5 days. Research shows that the survival rate for patients with AML is about 40%. It is a rare leukemia and generally a secondary cancer, meaning most people have already had another kind of cancer and are generally adults. At the time, VCU’s Massey Cancer Center said they had only treated a few other cases.

Kathleen shared that Justin was known for being a fun kid with a loving and giving disposition. He would walk in a room and relate as well to the infant as the elderly.  He was everyone’s friend. During his short life, he was clearly a difference maker.

Kathleen Yancey

Kathleen Yancey

As part of Kathleen’s quest for pediatric awareness, she orchestrated a Whipping Childhood Cancer Challenge at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals. For the challenge, you take a video of yourself talking about the pediatric cause, challenging 7 of your friends to give $7 to a pediatric cancer charity, and taking a pie to the face. The Chippenham Challenge was recently spotlighted on the local news (

Jon Burkett, CBS6, interview Kathleen

Jon Burkett, CBS6, interviews Kathleen

Got Her

After the #WhippingChildhoodCancer Challenge



I asked Kathleen what her inspiration was for this particular event and she said, “You hear a lot about other cancers, but not enough about pediatric cancers. We don’t have the same voice so it becomes the parent’s role to campaign for their kids. You see pink ribbons on everything. You don’t see the other color ribbons. Orange is leukemia and gold is pediatric cancers. I wasn’t seeing enough awareness campaigns here in Richmond, VA. The statistics are disheartening – 46 children are diagnosed every day and 7 children die of childhood cancers every day.”Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals’ fund raising supported a not-for-profit called Dragon Master which is focused on setting up a database to collect genomic data (the DNA sequencing of cancer) and correlating it to clinical data from patients. Their hope is that by doing this, researchers can focus on a cure. The organization was started by Amanda and Richard Haddock in Kansas in memory of their son, David Pierson, who passed away from pediatric brain cancer. He was told he would live 8 months; he ended up living 20 months. Kathleen commented that the extra time was an amazing gift for his parents.

It was difficult for Kathleen to share her story with others but she is so passionate about the cause and feels fortunate to have had 16 years with Justin.

She told me, “I have always been supported emotionally by the Chippenham Hospital team. It is hard to come here every day, in the place where my son passed away. The ER employees came together as a loving family. They were there for us from diagnosis through treatment. Even after he passed, they were so supportive and understanding. Kelly Grindstaff, my ER director, has also been amazing. The team at Johnston-Willis was helping us to organize a bone marrow transplant which unfortunately was not able to happen because of his rapid decline. Pediatric cancer awareness needs to come to the forefront. I hope that no other parent has to experience it. My dream is to find the cure. Progress is being made every day.”

If you would like to share anything on the topic of Pediatric Cancer, please feel free to share here on the blog as a reply.

Top 5 Life Lessons I Wish I Knew When I Was Young.

I often ask my young kids what they want to be when they grow up. Afterwards, I have a slight sense of guilt because it feels like I am trying to rush them through their childhood – but that isn’t really what spurs the question. What is on my mind is the old adage, with maturity comes clarity, and I wish I had some of that knowledge in my formative years. The truth is I was one of those kids who had some ideas about possible careers and life goals but very little idea how to get there. I am pretty sure my guidance counselors never encouraged me to think of actions I could take to be more purposeful in the direction I was headed.

Thinking about this lead me to wonder – if I could give my boyhood self any advice, based on all I have learned through the years, what would I say? Had I approached school, career, and life decisions with this knowledge I might have made a bigger impact. Some decisions might have led me in different career directions but I suspect many would have just made me a more well-rounded adult (I wish I had taken 6 years of Spanish classes seriously).

So here is the advice I would give my younger self.

  1. You don’t know it all so listen first and talk last. It isn’t hard to have a strong opinion. That doesn’t make it the best one. Force yourself to let others share their perspective first. This will allow you to see their side of the situation and better formulate your opinion. People will appreciate that you listened and they will respect your opinion more.
  2. Building a few strong, meaningful relationships is more important than building a voluminous network. Today, I see people trying to maximize the number of connections on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn instead of fostering relationships with a handful of people who they can really trust and collaborate with in meaningful way. Casually knowing a lot of influential people won’t benefit you nearly as much as these deeply meaningful relationships will.
  3. What others think of you matters but it matters less than what you think about yourself. Like many people, I am my harshest critic. Figuring out what you can control and what you can’t is critical. Learn from your mistakes while also having a thick skin. Lots of people have an opinion on how you could be better. Your attitude and approach has a compounding effect on your success in life and in work.
  4. Change is always hard so how you approach it matters. It is incredibly difficult to change the real flaws of our character or the imperfections of our life. No matter how much I envy people who are laidback, Type-B individuals, I will never be one of them. Focus on modifying your actions and adapting in a reasonable and measurable way. Lasting change will happen when the improvement is a habit (e.g. it takes 28 days of action to make exercise and healthy eating a routine).
  5. Reach out of the box and be bold. Just because someone achieved success one way doesn’t make it the only way. The most innovative, successful people in history had a lifelong commitment to trying something new despite what all the naysayers said. Take chances on going after the tough jobs and assignments because, if you don’t, someone else will and you will find yourself right where you were.

What is the advice you wish you knew when you were 18?

Ethics Drives Everything

If you are a Virginian, you likely felt disheartened by the conviction of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife on twenty counts of corruption. Hearing the sordid details of their poor decision making and selfish acts was reminiscent of trials and sentences of the past in areas like Chicago and New Orleans. Thankfully, this was the first, and hopefully last, high level egregious case in our state’s history. If there is any light to this dark period, I am optimistic that it will lead to stricter laws and greater compliance to commonsense rules of business.

As a company, HCA and Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals have made a significant long-term investment and commitment to building a sustainable culture rooted in strong ethics. The ethics and compliance program is designed to offer a number of avenues both onsite and telephonically to give employees the opportunity to share their concerns. Betsy Blair serves as CJW’s ethics and compliance officer supported by Brian Lundblad as the assistant ethics and compliance officer. A toll free number is also available to express your concerns (800-455-1916). Our broader leadership team and human resources are always available to listen, research, and respond to issues that come to light. Our hospitals utilize an ethics and compliance committee to oversee our program and ensure its effectiveness. If you aren’t sure whether something you are seeing or hearing is at the highest ethical benchmark, please bring it to someone’s attention. For all of us the safest thing to do in our business is to never operate in a gray area.  Our company has also required all employees take an annual code of conduct training module on Health Stream. This course gets refreshed each year and offers real life examples of navigating difficult situations.

It was a hard lesson for the former Governor to learn in such a public fashion but hopefully our elected officials will take meaningful action and limit the temptation of others to abuse the power and influence of their roles.