Issue 5 Stories
Feature

At Home at Martha

Family Embraces Sentara Martha Jefferson’s Caring Tradition

When Michael Van Ornum, RPh, RN, BCPS, CPPS, visited Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital for a job interview in early 2012, he noticed a strong sense of family throughout the organization.

“I was impressed by the consideration of employees as people—the recognition that team members are people who are taking care of patients,” Michael says. “We’re not just pieces of a machine that is generating health care. It was unlike anything I’d seen in any other healthcare environment.”

Offered a position as a pharmacy information specialist, Michael moved to Charlottesville from his home in upstate New York. The rest of the family—wife, Sharon; daughter, Morgan; and sons, Joel and Corban—followed a few months later, after the children wrapped up the school year.

A Family Affair

“Martha,” as the Van Ornums affectionately refer to Sentara Martha Jefferson, has become an extension of their own family since their arrival in Central Virginia. Four of the five Van Ornums, in fact, have worked for the hospital at some point.

Shortly after relocating to Charlottesville, Sharon was hired as an operations coordinator at Sentara Martha Jefferson—a position she still holds today. Joel, 23, began volunteering at the hospital four years ago and now is a registered nurse (RN) in the Cardiac Cath Lab. Morgan Van Ornum Lindblad, 20, worked at the hospital from July 2016 until May 2017—first as an information analyst and then as a front desk associate. Corban, 18, is a high school senior.

Michael, who was an RN before transitioning to the pharmacy field, has followed a strong tradition of patient care providers in his family. His father also was an RN, and three sisters and a brother-in-law have served in nursing as well. Their passion for the field inspired Michael’s interest in pursuing a career in medicine. His first position with Sentara Martha Jefferson involved assisting with the technical build and subsequent rollout of the hospital’s computerized physician order entry system. Three years ago, he was promoted to his current position as a medical safety clinical pharmacist.

The Van Ornums see the Sentara Martha Jefferson Caring Tradition as an integral part of who they are at work and at home.

“I think the Caring Tradition multiplies,” Michael says. “When you’re in an environment that’s supportive—where caring for people is valued—that creates good habits that carry over into other parts of your life. You create a nice harmony and alignment between who you are at work and who you are at home. The Caring Tradition isn’t limited to hospital walls—it’s something you can practice in all areas of your life.”

Sharon, who worked as a medical assistant before moving to Charlottesville, has been impressed with Sentara Martha Jefferson’s focus on customer service—not just to patients, but also within the entire organization.

“If you offer great customer service not only to your patients, but also to your colleagues, that helps the hospital maintain a great staff,” Sharon says. “It takes many people to deliver health care—not just the people that work directly with the patients. If you’re focused on treating your patients well and treating each other well, it’s going to be an enjoyable environment. It’s wonderful for us as employees, but patients also benefit by receiving the best care possible.”

Passing on the Caring Tradition Both Michael and Sharon were thrilled when Joel and Morgan expressed interest in working for Sentara Martha Jefferson. 

“We were happy that our kids were interested in career fields where their skills will be in high demand,” Sharon says. “We support our kids no matter what they want to do, but we have experienced firsthand how rewarding a career in the medical field can be.”

When Joel expressed interest in nursing school, Michael and Sharon encouraged him to volunteer at the hospital to get a feel for the environment and the nature of the work. He volunteered in the Emergency Department and later worked as a pharmacy technician and a nurse care partner while finishing nursing school at Piedmont Virginia Community College. He graduated with his associate’s degree in May 2016.

“I’ve worked in a number of healthcare environments, and some can be very taxing,” Michael observes. “I encouraged Joel to volunteer at Martha because of the hospital’s supportive environment, where people build each other up. I wanted to give him exposure to a healthy working environment so he wouldn’t get discouraged with his career choice. That’s why I recommended that he come to Martha.”

Dinner conversations at the Van Ornum household are never dull. Michael and Sharon enjoy being able to talk to Joel and Morgan about workplace challenges that sometimes arise in their day-to-day encounters. Though they are careful to respect patient privacy, they can talk about issues in general terms to help their children grow professionally.

“I worked as a nurse, and I like to share my perspectives and insights with Joel. Then, when he goes back to work the next day, he can take those ideas and put them into practice,” says Michael, adding that working with family is the ideal carpooling situation.

Joel enjoys working with his parents on a “peer-to-peer basis.” He also appreciates the intimate environment at Sentara Martha Jefferson, where he knows many of the staff members, as well as his patients.

“I wanted to be in a field where I could help people every day,” Joel says. “The hospital has a close-knit, family feeling, and I feel like I’m treated like a person, rather than just a number. At a community hospital, you see many patients over and over. You build relationships with them, and it’s so rewarding when they tell you that you’ve made a difference in their lives.

“I also like listening to patients—just sitting down with them and talking to them about their concerns,” he adds. “I like having that time to explain to them what’s going on with their health and helping them understand how we’re going to help them.”

For Morgan, sharing a workplace with her parents and her brother has been a “bonding experience.” She recently moved to Northern California with her husband, Matthew, who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard. Her experience at Sentara Martha Jefferson has inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare administration. A graduate of Piedmont Virginia Community College, she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Humboldt State University.

“Working at Martha has definitely brought a sense of awareness to us all of what it means to deliver compassionate patient care,” Morgan says. “We all have worked in different departments and at different skill levels, but we all had a role to play. I enjoyed the opportunity to get an inside view of how the hospital works, and that will be valuable experience for me in my future career.”

As Michael and Sharon raised their three kids, they always tried to model kindness and compassion—qualities that are important at any level of healthcare delivery.

“I think providing quality patient care is like the saying, ‘It takes a village,’” Michael notes. “It takes a hospital to provide good care. There’s not one hero or star who is responsible for good care. It’s everybody’s contribution—from the cleaning folks who make sure the room is turned over in a timely fashion, to the people who program the computer systems, to the nurses who give the hands-on care and the doctors who develop treatment plans. Some team members are more visible than others, but all have an important role. We’ve tried to teach our children to have a broader perspective and an appreciation for the complexity of the healthcare system—and to see themselves as an important part of that system.”

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