By Katie Demeria
WOODSTOCK -- Valerie McCray, a nurse with Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, leaned over her patient, Charlotte Allen, 68, of Woodstock, and explained her medication.
"These are two Vitamin C tablets, here, and your calcium tablet," she said, laying out the pills for Allen.
"Now the calcium, is that with Vitamin D in it?" Allen asked. "I'm asking because they told me it was supposed to."
McCray checked the pill. "Yup, calcium with Vitamin D."
In the past, Allen has been a regular at the hospital -- the staff there knows her by name. She nearly died a few years ago when her colon ruptured, and now doctors are worried it has ruptured again.
"These girls work hard," Allen said about the nursing staff. "They make you comfortable, mentally and physically. They listen to you and understand what you're trying to tell them."
This past week was National Nurses Week. Valley Health hospitals celebrated the nurses in their hospitals by giving gifts of appreciation and hosting a luncheon for retired nurses in Winchester.
McCray has been with Shenandoah Memorial for the past five years. Before that, she worked with Inova health system in Alexandria for 24 years.
"You look at a patient as a whole, not a body, not an illness, you look at their whole being," McCray said.
Lisa Stokes, vice president of patient care services with the hospital, said nurses are on the frontline when it comes to ensuring patient safety, high quality care and preventing readmission.
At a time when the national health care climate is so unstable, making those efforts to ensure safety and health go a long way, Stokes said. Nurses are responsible for that, and provide healthy advice from the moment the patient enters the hospital.
"It starts with the patient getting the education, when they get here -- you can't start with the day they're discharged, it needs to be a process from the very beginning," Stokes said.
This week, Lisa Zerull, academic liaison and program manager of faith-based services for Valley Health, led the retired nurses luncheon, which she plans to make an annual event.
She is hoping to encourage nurses who have left the hospitals but retained their licenses to return as highly qualified volunteers.
"They have knowledge, skills and experience, and they continue to give back to their local health system and community even after retirement," Zerull said. "We are beautifully positioned to promote wellness in our community."
Already she has had some responses from retired nurses, willing to start volunteering again. Zerull said they will be especially useful in the neonatal intensive care unit, where infant cuddlers are needed for premature children born to drug-addicted mothers.
"Who better to do that than a retired nurse who really know what they are doing?" Zerull said.
For Allen, the nurses, and the hospital itself, are part of the community -- they have made her time in the hospital easier.
"I know a lot of people in this hospital," Allen said. "I don't know what I would have done without those nurses."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org