Investing in Nursing Leads to Better Caregiving

Categories: Volunteering
Stephanie Brock, Sentara RMH Medical Center
Stephanie Brock, Sentara RMH Medical Center

Sentara RMH nurse Stefanie Brock, RN, and her husband, Quincy, were taken completely by surprise when their 18-month-old daughter, Tiana, had a seizure in the middle of the night in May 2008. Shortly after that initial seizure, Tiana was diagnosed with epilepsy, and for several years the Brocks worked with their daughter’s physician to stabilize her condition with various medications.

Tiana’s daycare was especially challenging. Her daycare providers were inexperienced in recognizing some of her symptoms, so in 2010 Quincy quit his job to stay home and care for her.

“We wanted a caregiver we could trust, so who better to care for her than her father?” Stefanie says. Although their decision put the Brock family at ease emotionally, the loss of one income placed considerable strain on their finances, particularly with the medical bills they had to pay.

As all of this was playing out, in 2010 the Institute of Medicine (known today as the National Academy of Medicine) released a report, The Future of Nursing, recommending that 80 percent of the nation’s nurses have a bachelor’s degree in nursing by 2020. In response to the report, Sentara RMH stepped up its efforts to encourage its nurses to further their education, and the RMH Foundation began to offer scholarships to help nurses cover the costs of further schooling.

While Stefanie had earned her associate degree in nursing, she knew that returning to school was not realistic, given her family’s financial situation. She also realized, however, that she would probably have to get her bachelor’s degree at some point. “The timing wasn’t ideal, but I decided to apply for the Foundation’s nursing scholarship and see what would happen,” she says.

To Stefanie’s delight, she was awarded scholarships for two years in a row, totaling $6,000, and was accepted into the RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg. She began her new studies in 2014, and since it was an accelerated program, she was able to finish in just 18 months, completing her degree requirements in December 2015.

While she was going to school, Stefanie continued working as a patient care coordinator for Sentara RMH’s hospitalists, a group of hospital-based physicians who care for inpatients. Shortly after her graduation in May 2016, she was promoted to the role of clinical manager for the hospitalist group.

In her new role, Stefanie works directly with hospitalists and patient care coordinators to ensure that Sentara RMH patients are receiving safe, high-quality care during both hospitalization and transition to discharge. “I’m really passionate about supporting the members of the hospitalist team, as they provide the most comprehensive care to community members,” she says.

In addition to receiving the two scholarships, other things seemed to fall into place for the Brock family around the same time. While caring for Tiana at home, Quincy was taking classes to further his own education. “Best of all, Tiana, now 9, has been seizure-free for two and a half years,” Stefanie notes.

Stefanie is especially appreciative of the RMH Foundation and all the donors who have generously supported the Foundation’s nursing scholarship program.

“Without them, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to continue my education and advance my career,” she adds. “With the help of the Foundation’s nursing scholarships, I was able to earn my bachelor’s degree almost debt-free.”

For the RMH Foundation, establishing the nursing scholarship program has been an investment that has paid huge dividends for the community at large.

“Our goal, as always, is to improve the quality of health care provided at Sentara RMH,” says Cory Davies, executive director of the Foundation. “Investing in our nurses by helping to fund their continuing education is one important way in which the Foundation supports that goal. Stefanie’s story is a perfect example of how opportunities to further one’s education and career produce valuable healthcare providers who see their work not just as a job, but as a true work of service and compassion.”