a smiling adult in scrubs holds a laptop with a medical bag in from of The Doorways logo“Every day I learn something new, especially in this role. My patients teach me as I teach them.”

Nurses are the backbone of healthcare. They support their patients through every challenge, from their physical needs to their mental health and emotional wellbeing. They go above and beyond every day to care for their patients outside of the hospital bed, and that’s never been more evident than with VCU Health’s Hospital at Home services. The VCU Hospital at Home program provides patients with the same high-quality care they would typically receive at the hospital, only from the comfort of their own home.

Or sometimes, at their home away from home.

Patients check in virtually with their doctors and receive daily in-person home visits from nurses and medics who ensure the patients have everything they need to handle their medical challenges away from the hospital. As we celebrate Nurse’s Week, what better time could there be to highlight the inclusion of The Doorways in the VCU Hospital at Home program?

We sat down with Shelby Wilkerson, MSN, RN, one of the amazing nurses who provides VCU Hospital at Home visits at The Doorways, to discuss the impact of the VCU Hospital at Home program.

How did you get involved with the VCU Hospital at Home program?

I’ve been a nurse with VCU Health since 2016 and had been with the Home Health program (also part of the larger VCU Health at Home services) since 2022 before I was approached for this role with VCU Hospital at Home. It made me realize that I really missed the bedside level of care at the hospital. I fell in love with the Hospital at Home program because I got to do what I loved in the hospital with that acute level of care, but in my patients’ home.

a smiling adult in scrubs sits in the lobby of The DoorwaysHow is providing care through VCU Hospital at Home different than at the hospital?

The patients have to be stable enough to be outside the hospital, but otherwise we do everything nurses do at the bedside, just at their home or, in this case, at The Doorways. The patients have to be able to take their own vitals and work with the technology that we have, but I bring the supplies needed for each visit. I time my visits based on when certain things are due: I draw their blood, check their vitals, do a head-to-toe assessment, and give medications including IVs.

What has your experience been like providing care at The Doorways?

The staff are very inviting, they recognize me. It’s really homey and comfortable to walk around here, I never feel in a hurry to leave. The Doorways makes the VCU Health community feel comfortable when they’re here, and it doesn’t feel like work. In terms of care, staying at The Doorways allows the patient and me with the privacy we need that isn’t always possible in semiprivate rooms at the hospital. We don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing or having too much noise or other distractions.

When we are with the patients in this program, they get one on one care.

How has having the VCU Hospital at Home program at The Doorways positively impacted your patients?

The Doorways is great because if a patient is really interested in this program, but they live outside the radius that we we can travel which is around 25 miles, then they are given the opportunity to stay here. They are able to get outside the hospital and have privacy. We’ve had good feedback from our patients at The Doorways because it gives them more freedom than the hospital so they become more independent and autonomous in their care. On day one, patients often feel overwhelmed, but by day three, I come into the room and they’ve already taken their vitals and know what the numbers mean. Because we are constantly doing education with our patients, they often understand their care even better than at the hospital where they typically aren’t allowed to touch the equipment. It’s definitely a great stepping stone to get home as they’ve already had hands on experience as a participant in their care.

How has The Doorways involvement in the VCU Hospital at Home program benefited you as a nurse?

It’s so close and convenient. If a patient needs something urgently, I can get supplies easily from the hospital or go back to the office. It’s just up the hill! The proximity makes it comforting to know that we can get the patient what they need in a timely manner.

a smiling adult in scrubs stands beside an open car with medical supplies while holding onto a medical bagHave you had any memorable moments at The Doorways?

I had this young patient at The Doorways who was just thrilled about the program because his parents got to come stay with him. They were in a suite and were so happy to be together. In the hospital, they were worried about visiting hours and not having a place for them to sleep other than a chair if they could stay in the room. When they left, they were so happy. There’s always something going on here – there’s every effort to provide what you need. Patients can have privacy to read in the library or they can go play pool or do something with the community. People don’t have to worry about the financial burden when they stay at The Doorways.

I love being here. It doesn’t feel like work.