10 Years on Pantops Mountain

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital Celebrates a Decade of Growth 

A photograph displayed on the desk of Amy Black, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, captures a historic moment: a small circle of people watching as a pink ambulance departs from Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital’s former location at 459 Locust Ave. The squad was transporting a breast cancer patient to the hospital’s brand-new building on Pantops Mountain—the last of 59 patients moved from the old facility to the new one. »

The image, taken on Aug. 28, 2011, depicts a celebratory mood and features broad smiles. Black is shown embracing Becky Owen, MSN, RN, a former hospital nursing director who has since retired.

“Just seeing the smiles on people’s faces, I remember it was so gratifying to have a safe moving day and be off to the new hospital,” recalls Black, vice president and chief operating officer at Sentara Martha Jefferson. “Many people had put in more than three years of work planning the new facility, and we knew it was going to be beautiful. It was such a thoughtful design and collaborative process. We knew we would enjoy the fruits of our labor, and it was truly a labor of love.”

This August, the first 10 years on Pantops will come to a close, and one thing is certain: Sentara Martha Jefferson has thrived in its 520,000-square-foot, 176-bed facility, which comes complete with spectacular views. In June 2011, Martha Jefferson merged with Sentara Healthcare, an innovative, community-focused, not-for-profit organization founded in Norfolk in 1888. Martha Jefferson became the 10th hospital to join the Sentara system, following the addition of RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg, and together the two facilities became the Blue Ridge Region of Sentara. This partnership with a larger system has enhanced the hospital’s ability to offer safe, high-quality medical care.

“One of the strengths we’ve acquired through integration with Sentara has really come from being able to tap into the knowledge and experience of our peers across the system,” says Allison Crawford, MSN, RN, director of the Surgical Interventional Procedural Center. “That allows us to leverage our strengths as groups of clinicians and healthcare leaders, bouncing ideas off of one another and supporting each other.”

Over the past decade, although Sentara Martha Jefferson has added new healthcare services, new partnerships and new programs, patients remain at the center of every decision. 

A Focus on Patients and Community

Since the hospital’s founding in 1903, patients have been at the heart of Sentara Martha Jefferson’s mission, and the move from downtown Charlottesville to Pantops hasn’t changed that focus. In fact, the new facility and its picturesque setting provide a soothing, healing environment that embraces Central Virginia’s natural beauty and helps foster a safe and comfortable patient experience. For example, private patient rooms in the new hospital reduce the risk of infection, while giving patients and families the privacy they need during anxious times.

Sentara Martha Jefferson is committed to caring for the whole person. The Cancer Center Tumor Board, for example, provides a multidisciplinary focus on each cancer patient’s medical and nonmedical needs. The hospital also offers little touches to enhance the patient experience, such as the Acts of Kindness program and the Caring Always Cart for inpatients, as well as new-parent celebratory meals and massage therapy for cancer patients.

Patients aren’t the only ones who need and deserve special attention, however. Caregivers—usually spouses, parents, children or siblings—also have physical, emotional and spiritual concerns. Sentara Martha Jefferson’s new Caregiver Center, which opened in 2020, provides a quiet place to rest and recharge, with counseling and coaching available to caregivers who may need some extra assistance and encouragement. 

Sentara Martha Jefferson has always been a community-focused hospital, and that tradition continues strong today. The Sentara Starr Hill Health Center, for instance, has helped maintain the hospital’s connection to neighborhoods in downtown Charlottesville by offering programs to help prevent and manage chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. During the pandemic, the center was instrumental in addressing vaccine hesitancy and expanding immunization access to communities of color. And to strengthen relationships across the Charlottesville community and beyond, the hospital established the Patient and Family Advisory Council to facilitate prompt and effective responses to patient and family needs and priorities. 

Robert Chambers, a supply chain associate who was working in Dining Services at the time of the move, says that having a larger building not only provided staff members more space to do their jobs, it also provided more comfort and privacy to visitors.

“It was just so much more comfortable once patients and their families got the extra space they needed while waiting to get news—or just to take a break,” Chambers says. “Patients’loved ones often experience anxiety in hospital settings, so to be able to help them relax a bit was a huge plus—and the new hospital provides that benefit for our community.”

Access to Sophisticated, Compassionate Care 

Over the past decade, Sentara Martha Jefferson has established or expanded several service lines and programs to provide patients with advanced therapies. In 2015, the hospital also began offering neurointerventional surgery services for treatment of advanced stroke and aneurysm. As a vital piece of that program, the hospital’s helipad opened in 2016. Both of these accomplishments laid the groundwork for Sentara Martha Jefferson to become, in 2018, the first hospital in the nation to receive certification from DNV GL Healthcare as a Primary Plus Stroke Center. The stroke program also has received the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get with the Guidelines. 

Other enhancements include the opening of a free-standing Emergency Department in northern Albemarle County in 2012; the addition of advanced gastrointestinal specialists for treating digestive disorders, as well as bariatric surgery specialists; the hiring of new cancer specialists, including colorectal and hepatobiliary surgeons; and the development of the Fast Track Lung Cancer program. 

On the nursing side, Sentara Martha Jefferson received Magnet® recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center—the highest national honor for nursing excellence—in 2006, 2011 and 2016. Currently, only 7% of all U.S. hospitals have achieved Magnet recognition. 

“I am left with a sense of joy and pride, recognizing that less than 2% of hospitals in the nation attain four consecutive Magnet designations,” says Johnsa Morris, MBA, MHA, BSN, RN, chief nurse executive for Sentara Martha Jefferson. “This year, Sentara Martha Jefferson participated in its fourth Magnet survey, and we are eagerly awaiting the news of this fourth designation in mid- to late June. All members of the team—including our providers, ancillary support and community members—are encouraged to take time to reflect on how nursing at Sentara Martha Jefferson has maintained the foundational principles, purpose and outcomes required to seek this redesignation.”

Improving Workflow

While the aesthetics of the new Sentara Martha Jefferson certainly boast a “wow factor,” the hospital’s design and layout—the planning of which involved team members from all areas of Sentara Martha Jefferson—were primarily intended to support and enhance the efficient delivery of patient care. For example, considerations were made for improving nurse workflows, and with that in mind, each patient room was equipped with a bedside computer, enabling nurses and other clinicians to document cases in real time and keep electronic medical records as accurate as possible. 

Nikki Eppard, BSN, RN, especially appreciates the “nurse servers” located just outside of each patient room. These cabinets are equipped with medical devices, linens, gowns and other supplies nurses need to care for their patients.

“Most everything we need is right there within arm’s reach,” Eppard says. “And the technology has come so far over the past 10 years. We have machines that dispense medications, fall alarms that make it easier to monitor our patients and single-click sign-on capabilities to access patients’electronic medical records.” 

Supporting the Martha Team

Evidence shows a correlation of advanced nursing education with both improved patient outcomes and reduced patient mortality. The Haden Institute for Nursing Excellence and Innovation, which was established in 2013 to support the hospital’s commitment to promoting nursing leadership, superior clinical outcomes and exemplary patient care, offers scholarships to Sentara Martha Jefferson nurses who want to pursue higher-education opportunities. The Institute also offers other types of support, such as loan forgiveness.

In 2017, the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation launched the Center for Clinical Education, thereby extending educational scholarship opportunities to non-nursing professionals on staff as well. 

To help look out for the well-being of staff members, the leadership team at Sentara Martha Jefferson has expanded the hospital’s Caring Tradition to address more than just patient needs. Resiliency programs, such as the Intentional Caring Committee and Schwartz Rounds, help staff cope with daily stress and reduce feelings of burnout by providing opportunities for open discussion of social and emotional issues that arise in caring for patients and families. Ultimately, when staff take care of themselves, they can take better care of patients. 

For her part, Crawford feels inspired every day to come to work in the beautiful natural surroundings on Pantops.

“We are fortunate to have the landscape and the beauty both inside and outside of this building,” she says. “It certainly does not feel like I’m coming to work at a hospital. I can’t brag enough about this building.”

A Strong Caring Tradition

Since Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital moved to Pantops Mountain 10 years ago, individuals from Charlottesville and beyond have demonstrated love and enthusiasm for the hospital’s vision of providing world-class care in Central Virginia. 

Philanthropy has been the backbone of Sentara Martha Jefferson’s efforts to go beyond what is expected from health care in the 21st century. The generosity of time and resources offered by the community has been vital in strengthening the hospital’s Caring Tradition. 

Gifts to the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation have made possible or enhanced numerous programs and initiatives, including:

  • Palliative Care
  • Haden Institute for Nursing Excellence And Innovation
  • Clinical Education Center
  • Caregiver Center
  • Cancer Resource Center (Includes Marianne’s Room, the Something Special Shop, Caring Embrace, Look Better Feel Better, the High-Risk Breast Program and Free Breast Cancer Screening Clinics)
  • Cancer Survivorship Program
  • Sentara Starr Hill Health Center

Please see page 41 to learn more about how philanthropy supports the mission of Sentara Martha Jefferson.

Awards and Accolades

Over the past decade, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital has continued its commitment to providing exceptional care for the Charlottesville community and beyond. In recent years, Sentara Martha Jefferson has received numerous honors, including:

  • DNV Primary Plus Stroke (PSC+) Certification from DNV GL-Healthcare (the first hospital in the nation to receive this designation)
  • Blue Distinction® Center+ for Bariatric Surgery designation as part of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Blue Distinction Specialty Care program
  • 5-Star Rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Hospitals & Health Networks’Most Wired Award for 2016 
  • Soliant Health’s 2012 Most Beautiful Hospital in America
  • LEED® certification by the U.S. Green Building Council
  • Magnet® Recognition for Nursing Excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (2006, 2011, 2016)

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