On June 22, 2010, RMH staff members experienced a real sense that “we’ve arrived” as they safely moved 95 patients from the old hospital in Harrisonburg to the new state-of-the-art hospital, billed as a “destination for health and wellness,” on an expansive 254-acre campus just outside the city limits. The years of construction and months of planning for a safe patient move had finally come to fruition. RMH was securely positioned in its new home, ready to begin “a second century of service,” words hospital leaders frequently repeated when explaining the decision to relocate. Landlocked between a century-old residential community and James Madison University, the original location had no room for expansion. However, with a rapidly growing local community, RMH was looking for effective, patient-centered ways to grow its services to meet increasing demand.
Today, the first decade of that second century has just ended, and it has been anything but static. Over the past 10 years we’ve seen the addition of new buildings, new partnerships and new healthcare services as the rule, not the exception. And through it all, Sentara RMH has remained true to its promise and mission of improving health every day.
New Buildings, Smart Design
During a June 2010 open house, community members lauded the new hospital as a breathtakingly beautiful facility, with its large windows, gorgeous views, warm interior colors, private patient rooms with large restrooms, and beautiful artwork. Sixteen days later, William Blodgett, the first patient to be moved to the new facility, commented that he thought he was being transported to a new hospital. “I didn’t know I was going to the Astor,” he said. “This room is as fine as any you would find in any hotel.”
But the intention of the new hospital was not merely to impress. “It was all carefully planned to provide a calm, soothing environment that promotes healing,” says Donna Hahn, DNP, chief nurse executive at Sentara RMH. “In addition, the layouts and locations of various departments inside the hospital were intended to support and enhance the efficient delivery of care to our patients.”
Three years later, in 2013, the Sentara RMH Funkhouser Women’s Center opened, incorporating the same aesthetic and design goals to support the hospital’s healing mission. The new center brought together an array of women’s health services, including mammography and the breast surgery clinic; bone density screening; and the Image Recovery® Center, an integral part of the services Sentara RMH offers to cancer patients—especially women—who are dealing with hair loss, scarring and other appearance-altering treatments.
A third building, the outpatient Orthopedic and Advanced Imaging Center, opened on the health campus in January 2016 as a “destination center” where patients can get all their orthopedic, sports medicine, outpatient imaging, hand, spine and rehab services under one roof.
“The Advanced Imaging and Orthopedic Center, like the other buildings on campus, was designed and built with efficiency in mind,” says Tom Weber, MD, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist who practices in the building. “Its design supports our mission of providing care that is centered on patients’ needs, as well as convenience for patients and staff.”
Celebrating a New Partnership and 100 Years of Service
Just months after moving to its new location, RMH announced its plans to merge with Sentara Healthcare, an innovative, community-focused, not-for-profit organization founded in 1888 in Norfolk. In May 2011, RMH became the ninth hospital to join the Sentara system.
A primary theme of the centennial celebration was the long tradition of healthcare excellence that had been practiced at the hospital since its founding. This tradition included the RMH School of Nursing, which opened with the hospital in 1912 and quickly established a statewide and regional reputation for producing excellent nurses. Later, the RMH School of Radiologic Technology and the School of Medical Technology were opened, soon achieving similar reputations for excellence.
“Clearly, the partnership between Sentara and RMH represented the merger of two established providers of innovative, safe, high-quality care, with similar missions and commitments to serving the local community,” says Doug Moyer, president of Sentara RMH. “RMH has been privileged to adopt many evidence-based best practices from our sister Sentara hospitals, and we’ve also contributed several to the entire system. We enjoy the shared expertise of multiple hospital administration teams, nursing teams and medical groups, helping us to ensure that we remain innovators in health care.”
Sentara RMH was able to open the Funkhouser Women’s Center and the Advanced Imaging and Orthopedic Center more quickly, Moyer adds, thanks in part to funding contributed by Sentara Healthcare.
New Services, New Capabilities
A month after the new hospital opened, Robert VerNooy, MD, who had recently joined the medical staff, performed the first electrophysiology procedure at Sentara RMH in one of the hospital’s four new cardiac intervention suites. Electrophysiology is a cardiology subspecialty that corrects irregular heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation, one of the most common heart arrhythmias.
Another significant advance in local cardiac care occurred in 2016, when Sentara RMH Heart and Vascular Services started its structural heart program. Structural heart disease includes conditions—such as atrial septal defect, atrial stenosis (narrowing of the atrial valve) and leaky heart valves—that compromise the integrity of the heart’s valves or chambers, notes Stan Holland, MS, RRT, FAARC, director of the cardiovascular service line.
“With the addition of these two subspecialties, Sentara RMH offers procedures locally that mostly only hospitals in larger urban areas are able to provide,” adds Holland.
In 2013, the Sentara RMH Wound Healing Center began seeing patients with chronic, difficult-to-heal or nonhealing wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, arterial and venous ulcers, pressure ulcers, and wounds following surgery or cancer treatment. The new center featured two hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers to facilitate the healing process of certain chronic wounds.
“This was the first dedicated wound care center in our area,” says Tamlyn Ogden, director of the Wound Healing Center. “A valuable resource where local providers can refer patients with difficult wounds for advanced therapy, the Wound Healing Center uses a holistic approach in treating patients and their underlying conditions, helping to prevent amputations and permanent disabilities.”
Additional services that have been added over the past decade include genetic counseling and testing for cancer patients, low-dose CT scans to screen for lung cancer, 3D mammography in the Funkhouser Women’s Center and, in partnership with Sentara Martha Jefferson, neurointerventional services for stroke patients.
Award Winning, Nationally Recognized Health Care
In December 2014, Sentara RMH received the highest recognition possible for the nursing profession when the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) announced that the hospital’s nursing team had been awarded Magnet® designation for its sustained excellence in nursing care. The designation was granted for four years, during which time Sentara RMH was closely monitored for continued compliance with ANCC standards. In June 2019, Sentara RMH received its second Magnet designation.
“A Magnet hospital is one that has met the very specific and high standards of the ANCC, and Magnet status recognizes the entire hospital for its excellent care,” says Hahn. “It is a validation of the superior quality of our care and of the positive impact that care has on our patients and their families—and only 9% of U.S. healthcare facilities have achieved this recognition.”
In addition to Magnet recognition, Sentara RMH was designated as a Primary Stroke Center by DNV, a healthcare accrediting agency, in 2012. That same year, the hospital’s bariatric weight loss program received Center of Excellence accreditation from the Bariatric Surgery Center Network Accreditation Program of the American College of Surgeons. In 2019, the Wound Healing Center received national recognition as a Healogics®Center of Excellence. And in recent years, the hospital’s heart care team and stroke care team have received Get With the Guidelines®achievement awards from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for the excellent care they provide.
If the founders of the original Rockingham Memorial Hospital could see the Sentara RMH of today, there is much that would astound them—our minimally invasive surgery, our advanced medical imaging, our targeted cancer treatment and our lifesaving heart care. But they would certainly find familiar the hospital’s commitment to providing safe, compassionate care to those in need.
As the 21st century unfolds, Sentara RMH is well positioned to add to its accomplishments and continue to meet the community’s growing healthcare needs.