Workforce Wellness – Bon Secours


Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) at Bon Secours Virginia Health System

September is healthy aging awareness month. In an effort to show our commitment to providing quality care to seniors, Bon Secours Virginia Health System has joined NICHE. NICHE is an international program designed to help hospitals improve the care of older adults. The vision of NICHE is for all patients 65 and older to be given sensitive and exemplary care. The mission of NICHE is to provide principles and tools to stimulate and change the culture of health care facilities to achieve patient centered care for older adults. NICHE is based at the NYU College of Nursing and is comprised of a network of hospitals and health care facilities in 46 states, Canada, and Bermuda. It engages hospitals and their affiliates in achieving and sustaining the NICHE designation. More information is available at

Each of the Bon Secours Virginia hospitals has joined NICHE in order to provide excellent evidence-based care to older adults. St. Mary’s Hospital has successfully had more than 270 nurses, patient care techs, and ancillary staff complete additional education to help improve our care for older adults. Twenty-six RNs have become gerontological certified nurses. Education covers provision of evidence-based care on topics such as falls prevention, medication safety, nutrition, function, sleep, skin protection, incontinence, depression, dementia, delirium and pain. Our Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) provides volunteer visits to help prevent adverse effects of hospitalization including loss of function and delirium. In the emergency department, a family nurse practitioner, case manager, and physical therapist focus on the needs of seniors. Nurses in the operative area and in behavioral health are also exploring how to improve care for older adults. Nurses report that the information in the NICHE modules is helpful for patient care, and also in their personal lives if they are providing care for an older adult at home.

One of our HELP volunteers shared her experience in assisting our efforts to improve care for older adults:

  • “While helping to deliver papers at another hospital, I, at times, was torn between listening to patients who just needed company and delivering papers. When I read about the HELP program at St. Mary’s, I jumped at a chance to participate. The experience has been more rewarding than I expected. The coordinator of the program prepared volunteers for the experience and made sure we were comfortable with visiting patients and knew the routine when entering and leaving a room before we were on our own. The nurses are great at identifying patients who would like company or need a little help with meals.
    The bonus for me is meeting wonderful people and listening to the amazing stories they tell about their lives. I often wish I could tape them so their relatives could share them with future generations. An added blessing is hearing patients say, “Thank you, I didn’t think about my pain while I was talking to you.” Or “I’m glad you came. Will you come back?” They all praise the HELP Program, and so do I.” ­- Anne Fanelli

Each Bon Secours Virginia facility has individualized their NICHE program using the available resources to respond to the needs they have identified. We want to contribute to improved care for older adults and bring honor and dignity to those who come for care.

NICHE has offered a new app for patients and families. It can be downloaded at Click here to learn more about NICHE, HELP, and other programs for our senior population.

by Sean McCleary
Administrative Director, Bon Secours Senior Services

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