A message to the WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals family

Violet Whipkey, a nurse on the adult unit at Chestnut Ridge Center, shares a laugh with Ron Hardesty, a security officer, during a surprise 90th birthday party for “Vi” held on May 11.

Thank a nurse this week! That’s not just a WVU Medicine promotional slogan for Nurses Week, which we celebrated May 6-12, but a suggestion from me to you. We don’t do it enough.

It’s great to have a week in which we can offer gratitude, and reflect on and appreciate all the wonderful things our nurses do at WVU Medicine. I know I can never thank them enough.

Last year, the institution received a lot of attention for its “200 Nurses in 150 Days” hiring initiative. We’re glad we exceeded that goal and have so many fresh faces on board to keep pace with our growth, but it’s also important to recognize our stalwarts, the nurses who have been with us a long time and are the pillars of the care we deliver.

One such pillar is Violet Whipkey, who is as much of an institution here as J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital or the Chestnut Ridge Center, where she works the night shift on the adult unit.

Vi, as she’s known, recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She earned her RN in 1952 and, obviously, has had a long career that has taken her many places, including Antigua in the British West Indies, where she exchanged ideas at its school of nursing. But Vi has been at WVU Medicine since the mid-70s and at Chestnut Ridge since it opened in 1987.

While many others of Violet’s “vintage” have chosen a more relaxed lifestyle, she continues to serve patients several days a week and is beloved and respected by her colleagues. She drives to work from her home in Nemacolin, Pa., about 25 miles away.

Why does she keep on doing it? Vi says she continues to work because she feels like she is needed. If she has any doubt that she makes a difference, one of her colleagues, Brittany Dean, can add some perspective.

In an email to me about Vi, she wrote: “She is my role model! She inspires everyone around her. She has a great work ethic and a great outlook on everything. I'm sure if you ask anyone who knows her, they will agree with everything I'm telling you. She takes care of her co-workers and patients. She is an amazing woman!”

When Brittany says “take care of her co-workers,” one of the things she means is that Vi frequently prepares coffee and food for the Chestnut Ridge night shift. I’m told her apple pie and meatballs are outstanding. Brittany also said Vi is a wise and calming influence on many young nurses who are in the early stages of their career and encountering the many adjustments we go through in our career and lives.

Pictured, left to right, are Nancy Gifford (Nurse of the Year nominee), Lisa Henry (Magnet® Nurse of the Year), Francis Boyle (Nurse of the Year nominee) Samantha Keener (Nurse of the Year nominee), Annina Guzek (Nurse of the Year nominee), Christy Orndorff (Nurse of the Year), and CNO Doug Mitchell.

“A lot of times, she’s working with relatively new nurses and they get nervous and think, ‘how am I going to do this?’ Violet tells them they’ll be all right.”

So we know why she does it. But how does she keep on going at such a high level?

Vi has a very simple reason for her longevity: “Hard work,” she says.

We honored Vi at the 2017 Nurse Recognition Luncheon held yesterday (May 11), along with many other of our outstanding nurses. We have so many amazing nurses here with amazing stories.

Among the honorees were Christy Orndorff, the 2017 WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals Nurse of the Year, and nominees Francis Boyle, Nancy Gifford, Annina Guzek, and Samantha Keener. We also recognized Lisa Henry, our 2017 Magnet® Nurse of the Year. Read the press release for more details.

Approximately 60 nurses were honored. That’s a small sampling of the dedicated and skilled nurses we have at WVU Medicine. I salute them all!