In celebration of Nurses Week, we asked our team to tell us what it has meant to them to be a Riverside Nurse. Here are a few of the stories.

        A chance encounter saves a life         Edna Garcia

Years ago, my husband and I were shopping for a washer and dryer when we decided to have dinner. We were about to eat when a frail, elderly lady stood up from her chair with one hand on her neck and a panicked look on her face. I ran toward her, assessed her and found that she couldn't speak or breathe. I started the abdominal thrusts and was able to clear her airway after a while but then she became unconscious. She had no pulse and was still not breathing so I proceeded to do CPR. The restaurant manager offered to help but didn't know how to do CPR, so I instructed her and we continued the CPR until she started breathing again right before the EMS personnel arrived.

I went back to my seat calmly and at the time, I didn't realize people around us were clapping and cheering. A gentleman came over to our table and asked what I do and where I work. I told him that I'm a nurse and I work for Riverside. He then said, "God brought you here tonight to save the lady's life." The next day, my supervisor came to my office, gave me flowers and said, "I heard a Riverside Nurse saved someone's life last night and has been so quiet about it." I just smiled and told him, "It's part of my job." I found out later that the gentleman who had approached me at the restaurant was a chaplain and had called Riverside to tell the story.

- Edna D. Garcia, BSN, RN-BC, Director, Clinical Education, Riverside Lifelong Health & Aging Related Services

        Joining Riverside means joining a family         Alecia Goodman
Alecia Goodman

I am a Riverside Nurse because I love coming to work every day. I feel like I am a part of the Riverside family, having graduated from the Riverside College of Health Careers in December 2015, and now having an LPN position with RMG-Hilton Family Practice. In school, this office was my first choice. I fought to have my preceptorship at that location, and even then I felt like I played a vital role in the practice. I was lucky enough to interview and get the job — and since the first day, I have sincerely felt like part of a family. I can't imagine working anywhere else, but I do know that as long as I stay with Riverside I will always be a part of a family.

- Alecia Goodman, LPN, Hilton Family Practice

        Caring for those who have cared for you         Angela Kight

I am from Mathews County. Caring for others has always been an ambition of mine. I have been employed with Riverside for a little over two years. I love my career! The best part of being a Riverside Nurse in Gloucester is the small community. The majority of the people I care for are my family, friends and teachers — or family and friends of someone I know. It brings me great pleasure to know I am able to care for the people that have cared for me, taught me or watched me grow older. In the small community I am from, people are hospitable and treat one another like family whether they have known you for 10 minutes or all your life. Riverside's mission statement explains exactly how I feel about my patients. I take to heart the Riverside Care Difference of respecting wishes, helping heal and keeping patients safe.

—Angela Kight, RN, Med/Surg, Riverside Walter Reed Hospital

        It's not about 'I' but more about 'we'         Dana Graziano-Jones

I am a Riverside Nurse you see,
It's not about "I" but more about "we."
It's something we do with great personal pride,
It's about being a mentor, a teacher, a guide.
It's about holding a hand to calm someone's fears,
It's about comforting hearts, and drying one's tears.
It's about being a voice when words can't be spoken, and about picking someone up when their spirit is broken.
The helpless, the hopeless, and the downtrodden,
We unconditionally care for those others have forgotten.
It's about seeing others at their best or their worst,
We set our needs aside, putting theirs first.
It's about working long hours, sometimes without rest,
And even then giving our personal best.
It's about empty stomachs, sore feet and full bladders,
Then squeezing in extra, working Clinical Ladders.
It's about seminars, staff meetings, CBLs, CEUs.
Sometimes it's enough to give you the blues.
It's about taking a moment, a moment to pray
For strength to make it through the end of the day.
We come as a package, as part of a team
Riverside Nurses, wearing all green.
Our heads held high, are we proud? You Bet!
Always remember, don't ever forget.
I am a Riverside Nurse you see,
It's not about "I" but more about "we."

- Dana Graziano-Jones, BSN, RN, Nursing Supervisor and Staff Nurse, Riverside Behavioral Health Center

        Honoring a family legacy every day         Susan Kellam

Growing up on the Eastern Shore, everyone always jokes about how everyone knows everyone or everyone is related. My father operated his own television repair service.  My mother was also well known on the Shore.  When I was 15, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my father with cardiomyopathy (and diabetes and hypertension). My father used to ask me to give him his insulin injections and would ask if I was going to take care of him when I became a nurse.

I became an LPN in 1991 and began my nursing career at NAM Hospital (now Riverside Shore). A year later I began working full time at our local ob-gyn office.  Not two months after I started, 13 days before Christmas, my father died in his sleep from complications from his diagnosis. I was devastated as anyone would be. I chose to move back home with my mother and my then toddler daughter. In 1993, I began my journey to obtain my RN and celebrated my accomplishment in May of 1998. In the fall of 1998, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I found out I was expecting my second daughter in the summer of 1999. My mother passed away in February of 1999. So, as I had many reasons to celebrate, I also was dealing with the loss of both of my parents at such an early age in such a short period of time. 

I have worn many hats over these years in my nursing career, but my main one is working in the Emergency Department at Shore Memorial. It is my home away from home and my extended family. I look forward to each and every day at work and am proud to say I am Riverside. Working in the Emergency Department, we see the patient first, and meet their needs first, regardless of their complaint.  Normally, if a patient asks me where I am from, all I have to do is say, "Do you remember OJ Kellam, the TV repairman from Accomac?  That was my father.” Many remember him, and some offer encouraging words about my parents, telling me how proud they would be of me. 

So I not only get to touch the lives of others each day I wake and come to work, but I get positive reminders of what special parents I had and lost at such a young age. The fact that I am where I am today because of them makes me even more proud of my decision to become a nurse.

- Susan Kellam, RN, Emergency Department, Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital

        A lesson from a fairy tale comforts the grieving         Julia Warner

When I was a fairly new nurse, I had a special place in my heart for the AIDS patients, at a time when they had a short life expectancy. One patient had no friends and family around. It was Thanksgiving and I was working 3-11.  I made a Thanksgiving dinner, brought in plates, silverware and napkins, and he and I shared this meal together on his bedside table. Turns out it was his last Thanksgiving, but I like to think that I made it a little better.

Another story is something that I have done with some of the families who have lost loved ones in the hospital.  There is an old fairy tale called the “Bluebird of Happiness.”  In this story there is an ailing little girl.  A brother and a sister are told that if they can find the bluebird of happiness, they can save the little girl.  They are given a hat with a special stone in it. If you turn the stone you are taken many places.  On their journeys they went into the past. As they walked through the mist, they saw their grandparents’ cottage with a pot burning over the fire. They ran to their grandparents, who told them that they sleep when nobody is thinking of them and go about their lives when those they love think of them.  I tell the families that this story comforted me when I lost my grandmother and I made a vow to think of her every day so that she could go about her life as I remembered it. It comforted me and has seemed to comfort others.

- Julia F. Warner, MSN, RN, BA, Director, Inpatient Services, Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital

        Riverside Nurse transforms personal anguish into comfort         Tereasa Hughes

The role of being a Riverside Nurse flows right through my heart and my soul. I was hired in the ED at Riverside Regional Medical Center in 1999, but this story really begins the day my family fell ill. On Dec. 26, 2008, my 49-year-old husband complained of a bad head cold. At the time, I was a nursing supervisor. He took an antibiotic that had been prescribed for him earlier in the year. Within a minute he started complaining about his head itching and went outside for some air. My nursing judgment kicked in and I suspected an allergic reaction. Before I could help he was on the ground seizing. We called 911. 

We ended up in the ER trauma room. All efforts at reviving my husband failed. There I was, surrounded by the staff that I worked with side by side for years. The support they offered was overwhelming. My manager and director both came from home to be at my side. It was the best extended family that anyone could ask for in a time of grief.

The second part of my story is about giving back. In 2014, a family of four (daughter age 9, and son age 11) came from Ohio to visit our area. They had been out for the day and had returned to their hotel. The father, who was 49, had a sudden onset of chest pain. Unfortunately he arrested, and all efforts at reviving him failed. In the hospital waiting room sat his wife. It was the middle of the night; she had two children and no local family. The chaplain and I sat with her through her grief, helped her make phone calls, and tried to soothe her anguish. All I could remember was how much the support meant to me when my husband passed and the Riverside Nurses who were at my side.

The wife didn’t know how to get back to her hotel and wasn't sure she could drive. I made some adjustments in the schedule and drove her and her children back in their vehicle.  During our ride I had the opportunity to listen to the wonderful stories of her husband and the memories that made them so happy. I listened to the events that led to their vacation, the planning, the trip, and the future plans. As a Riverside Nurse I felt her pain; as a widow I felt her anguish. I did what I knew had helped me when I was in that position: I offered her unconditional heartfelt support.

It was in that 30-minute trip back to her hotel that I was reminded that I am a Riverside Nurse, a nurse who has seen, felt, heard and witnessed all sides of life. I am a nurse while I am at the bedside, in the halls, outside of the hospital, and at home with my family. Total commitment, passion, drive and focus make up a Riverside Nurse - me.

- Tereasa Hughes, RN, BSN, Nursing Supervisor, Patient Care Operations, Riverside Regional Medical Center

        Caring for families through generations          Kathleen Mitchell

As a Riverside Nurse of 22 years - 17 of them right here in Tappahannock - I am also active in the community. A man I had known throughout my volunteer career became a patient. I was first involved with his care as an ER nurse. As his disease progressed and I moved into the role of nursing supervisor, I would talk with him and his family when he was an inpatient. One sad day, I was notified that he had suffered a cardiac arrest and not survived.

Several months later, his father was admitted to our hospital for palliative care. The family remained at the bedside for days, taking turns sleeping in a recliner in his room at night. I frequently checked on the family as this dear man quietly slipped away. One evening I found his grandson sitting alone with him. The young man asked if I remembered him coming to one of my CPR classes with his father. Of course I remembered! I'm always proud to see the people I teach continue on with other training.

He went on to talk about the morning his father died. He said that he witnessed the arrest, and the training kicked in! He had his mother call 911 while he started CPR. He continued CPR until relieved by the medics. He said it was the hardest thing he had ever done. Afterward he knew that he had done everything he could and that what he had done was correct even though the outcome was not what he wanted.

We both shed some tears, but the hug and thank-you is one of the highlights of a long career. This is one of the many reasons I am a Riverside Nurse after 22 years.

- Kathleen Mitchell, RN, Nursing Supervisor, Riverside Tappahannock Hospital
        Approaching each resident as if they were a loved one         Sumina Aldhizer

I have been a nurse for a little over eight years. I am an older nurse; you could say that I finally decided what I wanted to do when I grew up. I graduated from the Riverside School of Health Careers in 2008. During my time and training there I had some wonderful experiences with the faculty, my classmates and clients through which I gained a greater passion for this field of health care. I thought then and know even more now that nursing is exactly the calling I am here to fulfill. 

As a PRN nurse in Lifelong Health, I absolutely love the population with whom I work! The work is hard, long and often stressful due to staffing shortages, but it is so very rewarding to me. I truly believe that the work I am doing is making a positive difference. I see it in the smiles on the residents' faces each time I return to a facility. I hear it through the kind comments I receive from the staff I work with and the residents I serve. I feel it through the hugs I give and receive at the passing of a loved one.

Each time I walk into a resident’s room my thoughts are: This could be my mom, dad or grandparent. How would I want them to be treated? I believe that in keeping these thoughts at the forefront of my mind, I am constantly reminded to treat each person with patience, kindness and respect, which is exactly the way I want my own family treated. I work very hard to do this every shift.

I love the people I work with and for. Without teamwork we cannot truly be successful. I hope I will always have this passion for nursing that I have today.

Sumina Aldhizer, LPN, Lifelong Health

        Returning to Tappahannock offers deeper rewards         Beverly Thomas

Since the tornado, I had been working diligently for those who needed help with debris removal. I have a good friend who left the area and is now a pastor at Manassas Baptist Church. We had numerous discussions about the devastation, and he was offering to bring a group of men to help someone in March. I made phone call after phone call, sent text after text, made post after post, but could not get them linked up with someone still in need of help.

I was about to decline the offer when a patient was brought back to my room in the ER for shoulder pain after a fall. She said she had stepped on a board that had debris under it.

Debris? As in tornado debris? Yes, it was. Her father's two-car garage was gone, nothing left but scattered piles.

After much discussion, the patient provided me with her father's phone number. When I called to offer help, he was so grateful he cried. That Saturday, I rode to his home and thanked all the men who came from Manassas Baptist. I am not sure who was more grateful, the homeowner or the men given the opportunity to help. It was a blessing for me to be a part of it all, divine intervention at its best.

I say all of this to say, this is why I came back to Riverside Tappahannock. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to help my community, my family and my friends every day I come to work. I worked in the Richmond area for more than a decade and as much as I loved my time there, this is why I became a nurse. I leave work every day exhausted, mentally and physically, and absolutely full of love for my job.

- Beverly S. Thomas, RN, Riverside Tappahannock Hospital, Emergency Department

        Individual contributions impact care in a big way         Jen Schneider

To me, being a Riverside Nurse is about bonding and making a connection with those we care for. Recently this happened for the family of a patient on comfort measures. She had been with us for an extended period and many of us got to know her family well. We spent time with them hearing stories, explaining care and just being there while they cried. One night while I was the supervisor, the patient's daughter brought a pink fluffy handmade tutu to the nurse's station. This simple act turned into a fun time with staff trying the tutu on and even using it as a hat. It provided a bit of laughter during such a sad time for her family. The patient's daughter even got a new male nurse to walk around the hall with the tutu on. She told her step-dad about this experience. He laughed along with her and expressed gratitude for the personal care provided not only to his wife and him but to all of their family.

The following day this patient's son committed suicide. When I returned to work that night many nurses including myself spent a lot of time consoling this family. Tears were shed as we all listened, but one thing that this patient's daughter said stood out: How glad she was that she had so many laughs the night before with the nurses here since that day had been exceptionally hard. The family expressed great emotions with hugs and "I love yous" to staff.

The patient passed away the following day. Her family had said so many thank-yous in the moment with the nurses here, but we were thankful too since we were all part of a little piece of joy that this patient's family felt while being cared for at Walter Reed. This family went on to thank us in their loved one's obituary for the care she received as well as for making her comfortable and peaceful.

While connecting on so many levels during such a horrific time in our patient's and family's lives it is important to focus on what we offer as individuals and how we impact care given. For that alone I am grateful to be part of Walter Reed's nursing team.

- Jen Schneider, RN, Med/Surg, Nursing Supervisor, Riverside Walter Reed Hospital

        126 years of combined experience bring a wealth of knowledge to cancer care          Monica Diggs

From left: Sandy Snapp RN, BSM, MSA,Service Line Administrator for Oncology and Neurosciences; Darleen Benza, RN; Monica Diggs, RN; Randi Cole, RN, BSN; Beverly Bowden, RN, Radiosurgery Manager.


At the Radiosurgery Center we have a combined 126 years of Riverside nursing experience. From director to manager to staff nurses, Riverside is the place we have each worked for our entire nursing careers. Some of us even went to nursing school at Riverside. Since we came from different specialties - OR, ICU, orthopedics, med/surg - we were able to bring a wealth of knowledge from different aspects of nursing with us to the Radiosurgery Center. And yet, we learn something new continuously. That is one of the great things about nursing: Even after so many years of experience, you can still continue to learn from each other on a daily basis.

What do we like about nursing? Solving critical problems, caring for the patients and their family, using nursing professional experience to help others, and bringing comfort to individuals dealing with pain. Our reasons for going into nursing may have been different but our reason for staying is the same: to give our patients and their families our all every day! Working with patients dealing with cancer is not always easy but it is very rewarding. We have the chance to be part of their story. What an amazing privilege! We have laughed, we have cried, held hands and wiped tears. What an awesome journey it has been!

As a team we can sum up our time at Riverside by saying: This is my extended family! I don't believe I could go anywhere else and feel this same way. Happy 100 years to you, Riverside! Glad we could come along for the ride! And for those of you wondering, yes, we do each have our own stethoscope! We are Riverside Nurses.

- Monica Diggs, RN, Chesapeake Regional, Riverside and UVA Radiosurgery Center

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