A former operating room (OR) nurse, Brenda Hathaway speaks passionately about her nursing career: working alongside surgeons, prepping patients, gathering instruments and learning about human anatomy. These days, she is passionate about boosting the careers of aspiring nurses—especially current or future OR nurses—as well as those who want to advance to the next professional level.
This enthusiasm inspired Brenda and her husband, Curtis, founder and owner of Hathaway Paper Inc., to designate their gifts to Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital to raise awareness among the hospital’s nurses and OR technicians about nursing careers in the operating room.
When Brenda earned her nursing diploma from C&O Railroad Hospital in Clifton Forge, Va., in 1960, nursing students were able to experience the many available potential nursing disciplines and career paths. That’s how Brenda became “hooked” on OR nursing, opting for a second clinical rotation in the OR—an experience she may not have had in current associate’s or bachelor’s nursing degree programs.
“I did not gravitate to bedside nursing,” says Brenda, who took a break from her nursing career in 1974 to manage Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and Bakery, the successful Staunton establishment her mother started in the 1950s. “I loved the operating room. As an OR nurse, I saw the patient come in, helped them prepare for surgery and saw their problem resolved. The patient moved on to the next level of care. I just loved the whole process.”
After graduating and passing the Virginia State Nursing Boards, Brenda returned to the OR at UVA Hospital, working wherever needed among the various surgical specialties until she became head nurse for orthopedics. Whether working as a “scrub nurse” or “first assist,” Brenda recalls how much she enjoyed working with the surgeons and staff in the OR, being able to anticipate what came next and which instrument would be needed—everyone working together to make the surgery go smoothly and safely.
In recent years, Brenda and Curtis have supported nursing education, simulation training and professional development for Sentara Martha Jefferson’s OR nurses. Tee Goyer, MSN, RN, CNOR, clinical manager for the operating room—herself a beneficiary of nursing scholarship support at Sentara Martha Jefferson—gratefully acknowledges Brenda’s insights and experience as an OR nurse. “It is so encouraging to know our community appreciates and supports what we do, and that people like Brenda and her husband direct their own charitable giving in such a meaningful and purposeful way.”
In July, Brenda underwent hip replacement surgery at Sentara Martha Jefferson. The procedure went very well, and Brenda credits Dr. Megan Swanson for her excellent outcome. As Brenda recovered postoperatively, she met Constance Barbour, nursing care partner (NCP). “Constance had a special way about her in the way she (and the entire nursing team) provided patient care,” recalls Brenda. During Brenda’s hospitalization, Barbour spent a lot of time with Brenda and impressed the Hathaways so much that they wanted to express their appreciation through philanthropy.
Following Brenda’s discharge from her joint replacement surgery, she reached out to the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation, expressing a desire to expand their philanthropic investment in the hospital’s nursing programs and provide support for Barbour and other NCPs to help further their nursing careers.
Barbour already has plans to pursue a Licensed Practical Nurse certification at Piedmont Virginia Community College. The hope that community support provided by the Hathaways and others can help with the cost of education while working at Sentara Martha Jefferson has inspired her to set her sights even higher. She now can see the potential to pursue an associate’s degree in nursing—and maybe more.
“Their support just means everything to me,” says Barbour, who joined the Sentara Martha Jefferson team in January. “I was just doing my job. I sat with Mrs. Hathaway to comfort and care for her. This is the way I treat every patient I work with—the way I would want a family member or myself to be treated. Their expression of gratitude in this way is such a blessing.”
Jenny Hughes, nurse manager for the Orthopedics Medical/Surgical Unit at Sentara Martha Jefferson, says donors like the Hathaways who support nursing education and professional development help to build a stronger hospital community.
“For someone like Constance, who is starting her nursing education at the ground level by taking program prerequisite courses, it's going to help her climb the ladder and fulfill her dream,” Hughes says. “I see her going really far. She will continue to grow in her career as a nurse, and I see her becoming a leader in this hospital.”
The Brenda D. and Curtis H. Hathaway Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Operating Room Nursing at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital
In addition to their many years of generous annual support of nursing at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, Brenda and Curtis Hathaway are establishing an endowment fund for the perpetual support of Operating Room (OR) nursing at Sentara Martha Jefferson. The Hathaway Endowment will provide permanently restricted annual support for academic scholarships, professional development awards and simulation/training aides for OR nurses, as well as nurses and OR techs pursuing careers in OR nursing at Sentara Martha Jefferson.
Through the Hathaways’ passionate and generous gifts, Sentara Martha Jefferson OR nurses can be even more confident of committed support for education and training, as opportunities develop to acquire new knowledge and skills that can enhance the delivery of safe and highly reliable nursing care in the surgical environment. They also will have support to advance professionally as nurses; pursue additional specialty certifications in the field of surgical nursing; and enhance their roles as respected partners and advocates for safety, best practices and the best outcomes for surgical patients.
“We thank Brenda for her many years of service and dedication to OR nursing,” adds Allison Crawford, MSN, RN, CRNI, director of surgical services at Sentara Martha Jefferson. “OR nurses often are among the unsung heroes in health care, and we are so grateful to Brenda and Curtis for their generosity, and for Brenda’s passion to promote OR nursing among new and experienced nurses,” shares Crawford. “Knowing that this support is something we can count on now and in the future helps us plan and prioritize our educational needs, and to recognize our outstanding nurses for the care they deliver every day.”
For information about how to establish an endowment at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, contact Kimberly Skelly, executive director (email@example.com), or Cathy Sedwick, director of philanthropy (firstname.lastname@example.org), at the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation.