Sentara in the Community

Empowering Nursing Professionals

Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation Offers Scholarships to Help Nurses Achieve Career Goals 

Dana Graves, BSN, RN, PCCN, joined Sentara Martha Jefferson’s nursing team in September 2001, just a few months after earning her associate’s degree in nursing and becoming a registered nurse (RN). At the time, she couldn’t imagine the world of opportunity an advanced education might open up for her.

Her spark of ambition was ignited when a supervisor, recognizing Graves’leadership potential, encouraged her to strive for a management role. To qualify for such a position, however, she would need a more advanced Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. 

“When I started working at Sentara Martha Jefferson, I did not intend to further my education,” Graves says. “I had no idea that leadership would be in my career path until my supervisor shared her belief that she saw strong leadership qualities within me.”

In 2005, Graves was promoted to unit coordinator as she began an RN-to-BSN degree program through Old Dominion University. A single mom at the time, she was grateful to receive a scholarship funded by the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation. 

“It was so nice not to have to worry about tuition,” says Graves, who completed her BSN in 2009 and was promoted to clinical nurse manager that same year. “Everything I learned set me up to qualify for management positions as they became available.”

When Sentara Martha Jefferson moved to Pantops Mountain 10 years ago, the Foundation accelerated investments in education and training for team members like Graves by founding the Haden Nursing Institute, a program that bolsters the hospital’s ongoing commitment to delivering a high level of care to each patient.

Since then, nearly $15 million has been contributed to the Haden Nursing Institute to fund formal education and professional certifications. These awards, which have helped nearly 200 nurses earn advanced degrees, bring Sentara Martha Jefferson closer to achieving its goal of having 80 percent or more of its registered nurses obtain at least a baccalaureate-level education.

In addition to their benefits for individual nurses, these scholarships are valuable for recruiting and retaining a highly qualified nursing staff in a competitive environment caused by a national shortage of nurses. Despite expected overall growth in the RN workforce, the Virginia Healthcare Workforce Advisory Council’s 2020 report indicates a projected deficit of more than 203,000 nurses per year through 2026, in terms of filling new positions and those vacated through retirement—and the challenges of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic have only intensified the problem.

“We recognize our nurses as the primary contributors to our organization’s success,” says Johnsa Greene-Morris, MBA, BSN, NEA-BC, vice president of patient care and chief nurse executive. “Investing in our team is essential, and the community’s support makes all the difference in our ability to maintain a culture of continuous professional development for all our nursing staff.”

Courtney Lambert, MSN, RN, NE-BC, who joined Sentara Martha Jefferson in 2006, received a Haden Institute scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in nursing, with a concentration in leadership and management, from Eastern Mennonite University. Six months after graduating in December 2018, she was promoted to her current post as director of Emergency Services. Last year, she took on an additional role as director of Critical Care Services/ICU.

Lambert, whose past leadership roles include clinical nurse educator and nurse manager, says that advancing her education has given her the tools to help shape and sustain a culture of quality care within the departments she oversees—a focus that is in keeping with Sentara Martha Jefferson’s Caring Tradition.

“Stepping away from bedside nursing required a change in perspective for me,” Lambert says.“Early in my career, I cared for a certain number of patients each shift. As I moved into management, however, I realized that I’m taking care of every patient in my department by leading a highly qualified, compassionate team. My impact starts with making good hiring choices, building relationships and retaining employees. When everyone on my team senses that I’m supporting and advocating for them, they are able focus on the patients and provide the best care possible.” 

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