Appalachian Regional Healthcare Announces 2017 ARH Scholars

Eleven individuals were recently named as Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars, which provides an initial $2,500 scholarship to be used toward obtaining a medical laboratory or nursing degree. The awards, renewable for a second year of study, have a total value of $5,000 per recipient.

“We are very excited about these ARH Scholars,” said Joe Grossman, President and CEO of ARH. “The winners are very diverse as well as deserving. The competition was intense, but all the winners had one thing in common—their desire to further their education so they can give back to the communities we serve. Once this exciting group of students complete their training, we will have medical laboratory professionals and registered nurses ranging from having an associate’s degree to a master’s of science degree.”

The inaugural group of ARH Scholars consisted of employees and their families, but according to Christopher Johnson, System Director Employee and Labor Relations at ARH, the 2018 ARH Scholars competition will be open to the public. “This was our first effort so we limited it, but we will expand the program for the next round. We will always show priority to our employees and their families, but we also want to look at individuals who are very deserving but not yet part of the ARH family.”

According to Johnson, the selection committee used a point system for ranking candidates. “There were several parts to the application process,” explained Johnson, “and each section carried an assigned number of points depending on the importance we gave to that section. For example, we thought the essay was more important than just completing the process of being accepted into a program of study, so the essay carried a much larger point total.”

Each applicant was required to submit a budget showing how they would pay for schooling and how the ARH award would contribute to living and travel expenses, as well as pay for schooling, books, tuition and other educational costs. “Before we found a candidate deserving, we needed to satisfy, in our minds that they were on a solid path to obtaining their desired degree,” said Johnson. “Sometimes it seems students sign up for a program of study and they really don’t have a clear idea of what it takes for completion.”

In addition to helping pay for the educational program, ARH wanted to provide Scholars with something the ARH leadership team thought was just as important as financial help. “Each winner will be assigned a mentor,” said Grossman. “So many parents of our students in eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia did not go to college so the students need to find other support. So we wanted to provide just one more layer to ensure success. The mentors will work with each recipient throughout their course of study, answering questions, providing leadership on deadlines and course requirements.”

For ARH Scholars who are already employed by ARH, consideration will be given to their individual work schedule and how that might need to change. “We will be looking at what is best for the employee,” said Johnson. “If we have an ARH Scholar who isn’t currently an employee, but rather a family member is, consideration for providing a part- or full-time job for the student will be considered. We want to provide as much support as possible on as many levels as possible.”

Joshua Shepherd, one of the 11 ARH Scholars, says while this scholarship will help him move from his current position as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to a registered nurse (RN), he doesn’t want to stop with his RN license. “My ultimate goal is to become a nurse anesthetist,” he said. “I want to be the best at what I am doing, so that will mean more study. I’m up for it. I want to help my patients get back to being the best they can possibly be physically.”

Shepherd currently works at the Hazard Veterans Clinic, part of the Lexington VA Medical Center, so it was his sister, Tammie Shepherd-Smith, who works for ARH in Hazard, who provided his eligibility to apply for the award. “I’ll end up working for ARH,” said Shepard, “but it was good she got me in. This award means the world for me because it takes a lot of the financial burden off of me and my family.” Shepherd commented that he didn’t want the ARH Scholars program to end with his award. “My wife is an LPN so I’d love to see her step up next.”

Two of the winners have already started their studies at Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) and both acknowledge the scholarship will cover much of the tuition. “It just takes so much of the stress off so I can focus on studying” said Kelsey Lowe, who worked as a nurse aide at an ARH facility when a student at Perry County Central High School. “I live at home so I don’t have to pay rent or anything. This makes going to school and studying to become a RN so much easier.”

Taylor Hurt, who is also attending HCTC and is studying to become a registered nurse (RN), is looking forward to working in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or the Emergency Department (ED). “I love the intensity and fast pace of those areas and I like giving back to my community.”

Timothy Pack, who is currently employed at Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center, wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps by becoming an RN. Treana Pack is the Head Nurse Manager in the pediatric department at Tug Valley ARH and she sponsored Timothy’s application. “All these years she’s been a great nurse and I knew what I wanted to do,” he said. “I’d already exhausted my academic scholarships so this is a great help. I was really surprised when I received the notification I had won. Great news!”

The following individuals were named ARH Scholars for 2017:

  • Trista Tackett, of Betsy Layne, KY, will be studying nursing at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. She was sponsored by Stephanie Owens who works at ARH Systems Center in Hazard.
  • Joshua Shepherd, from Lost Creek, KY, will be attending Galen College of Nursing studying for his RN degree. He was sponsored by Tammie Shepherd-Smith, who works at ARH in Hazard.
  • Kelsey Lowe, who was sponsored by ARH Hazard employee Susan Lowe, will be attending Hazard Community and Technical College, studying for an RN degree. She is from Hazard.
  • Jessica Cornett, from Letcher, KY, will be attending Galen College of Nursing studying to become a registered nurse. She is currently employed by ARH in Whitesburg.
  • Timothy Pack, a native of Delbarton, WV, will be studying to become a registered nurse at Southern WV Community and Technical College. Pack is currently employed with Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center.
  • Tara Buckley will be attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington, studying medical laboratory science. From Shelbiana, KY, she was sponsored by Dwight Buckley, an employee at Whitesburg ARH.
  • Melinda Ratliff, of Prestonsburg, KY, will study at the University of Cincinnati to become a medical technologist. She is currently employed at McDowell ARH.
  • Tiffany Stallard, who is employed at ARH in Hazard, will attend Galen College of Nursing working toward an RN degree. She is from Whitesburg, KY.
  • Weston Patrick, of Carrie, KY, will be studying to become an RN at Galen College of Nursing. Patrick was sponsored by Tonya Delph, who works at ARH System Center in Hazard.
  • Taylor Hurt, from Slemp, KY, will be working toward an RN degree at Hazard Community and Technical College. Hurt was sponsored by Charla Hurt, an employee at Hazard ARH.
  • Kendra Wiseman, of Hazard, will be working toward a master’s in science nursing degree at Indiana Wesleyan. She is employed at the ARH System Center in Hazard.
Ellen Wright

ARH Stories: Ellen Wright

Ellen Wright, System Chief Nursing Officer ARH, describes what it means to be an ARH nurse.

Harlan ARH Hospital Nurse Extern Program offers answers, experience

Photos submitted Amber Howard is currently participating in the Nurse Extern Program at Harlan ARH Hospital, working in med/surg.

Photos submitted Amber Howard is currently participating in the Nurse Extern Program at Harlan ARH Hospital, working in med/surg.

Participating in the Nurse Extern Program at Harlan ARH Hospital, Haley Cook is gaining experience in the emergency room.

Haley Cook and Amber Howard are well on their way to becoming extraordinary nurses at Harlan ARH Hospital, but one of the more critical factors leading to their success was a little surprising — being selected to participate in Appalachian Regional Healthcare’s (ARH) Nurse Extern Program.“I started as a nurse extern in December and by the time I got back to college for the next semester in January, I was a changed person,” said Cook who is a senior at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia. “I originally thought the medical professionals at the hospital might not take me seriously. I thought of myself as a kid, but it was so different. The nurses were so helpful and kind and the doctors took the time to explain complicated medical procedures to me. I can’t really explain it, but when I got back to Lindsey Wilson I was able to better grasp the information. I felt more confident and everything became more focused and relevant.”Howard agrees the Nurse Extern Program was a cornerstone in her professional development. “It was such a big difference in mastering time management skills and experiencing real life medical challenges. I was more confident because everyone helped me grow and made it clear they had my back.” Howard is currently preparing to “take the biggest test of my life,” the NCLEX exam, which is the final step to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). She graduated in May from Union College in Barbourville, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) and is already working at Harlan ARH Hospital as a nurse with a provisional license. The Kentucky Board of Nursing grants provisional licenses once a nursing student successfully completes all requirements to sit for the exam. With that license, they must work under the direct supervision of a RN.“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse and I always knew I wanted to go to Union College so that part was easy, but when I learned about the Nurse Extern Program with ARH, all the parts of my professional development were complete,” Howard said. Through the ARH Nurse Extern Program, students are provided a job, plus the ability to apply for scholarships covering tuition, books, lab fees and daily living costs. “They make it possible for you to focus on becoming the best nurse you can be,” said Howard.

“I love being at a smaller hospital where I get to experience so many different things,” said Howard. “I knew everyone and everyone knew me since I was from the area. I wasn’t just a student. People would come to me for help and I always knew I could go to others for help. You are never left alone.”

Howard, who loves the outdoors and played on the Union College tennis team, originally thought she wanted to go into obstetrics and gynecology but after her hands-on learning experience at Harlan ARH, she knew she wanted to pursue medical-surgical and pediatrics. “I fell in love with med/surg and it put me on the right path.”

Howard works three 12-hour shifts for three days and is off four days. “It’s really effective,” she explained, “because with med/surg you get to know your patients better because you are with them for three days. The first day you get acquainted and then it’s usually very smooth care. Of course you have some admissions and discharges, but the continuity makes for superior nursing care.”

Cook, on the other hand, is loving her time in the Emergency Room (ER). “It’s fast-paced and certainly keeps you on your toes,” she explained. “I’ve seen a lot. I’ll start 10 to 20 IVs each day and I’m getting so much hands-on experience. I inserted an NG tube (nasogastric tube) the other day. I had only practiced it on a mannequin used in the classroom so this was different. The nurses watching me kept telling me I had it and I believed them. A smaller hospital provides you with so much more hands on experience.”

Starting IVs and NG tubes has been only part of Cook’s experience in the ER. “On my second day, this woman was transported by ambulance to the ER. I got to run and get blood for the patient and witness everyone working as a team to get her stable and ready for helicopter transport to Lexington. My heart was racing and I knew I was in the right place professionally.”

Even though Cook had won a scholarship from Lindsey Wilson, the Nurse Extern Program at Harlan ARH provided additional money toward her education. “You are paid to work as a Nurse Extern so that is helpful,” she said, “and then you have the opportunity for more scholarships. Some of the nurse externs even got free scrubs. Everything adds up.”

The extra scholarship money will come in handy for Cook since she is planning on becoming a nurse practitioner, which will require two additional full-time years in a master’s program. “I can do a lot of the work online,” she said, “but Harlan has been so wonderful about working around my classroom demands. Lindsey Wilson is a three-hour drive from here so I plan on coming home two weekends a month to work the 36 hours and get all kinds of hands-on experience.”

Both Cook and Howard agree they are willing to drive the extra miles to work at Harlan ARH, which they both hope to do after graduation and passing the NCLEX exam. “I’d rather drive the extra 20 to 30 minutes to be somewhere I want to be,” said Cook while Howard nodded her head in agreement.

“Harlan is such a wonderful community and the Nurse Extern Program is the total package,” Howard said. “Give it a thought. You get a job working in your field gaining experience; you have mentors who guide and teach you; you can apply for ARH scholarships, and they are flexible about when you work so you don’t have to compromise study time.”

Harlan ARH Chief Nursing Officer Dee Hughes agrees. “I love the Nurse Extern Program,” she said. “I am part of the effort to create the nursing leaders of tomorrow. I love seeing them work and grow into outstanding professionals. They keep me young with their dreams and hard work. I go to as many of the colleges as I can to encourage nursing students to apply for the program. We want to help them be outstanding nurses who are well trained to take care of our community.”

ARH Stories: Eva “Dee” Hughes

Eva “Dee” Hughes, Community Chief Nursing Officer, Harlan ARH, discusses how ARH employees, “put caring and compassion into practice” both at work and in the community, working as “One Family” dedicated to helping others.

ARH Stories: Alice Lucas

Alice Lucas, Director of Radiology, Whitesburg ARH, discusses how ARH has helped her and her loved ones take the “One Family” promise to a new level.

ARH Stories: Mary Downey

A story of going above and beyond as an ARH nurse from our System Service Excellence Manager.

Tug Valley ARH Nurse Extern Program Offers Answers, Experience

Though Tennisa Pack and Jessica Alfrey both earned their Associate’s degrees in nursing from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College after following very different paths, they are alike when it comes to how much the Nurse Extern Program at Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center helped in their pursuit to becoming registered nurses (RNs). Ironically, after completing their studies, they both landed in the same Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital, providing highly skilled treatment to some of the most challenging patients.

Alfrey went to Southern directly from high school and knows that she eventually wants to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA). Needless to say, she was thrilled when she was selected to work in the ICU at Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center after nabbing one of the hospital’s Nurse Extern slots. “To get into school working toward your CRNA you must have at least two years of critical care experience,” said Alfrey. “A lot of recent graduates aren’t able to be placed in the ICU right out of school, but after my Nurse Extern program experience, I had the basics and am now working in ICU.”

Pack, on the other hand, views her recent completed studies and upcoming sitting for the NCLEX exam, which is the last step in obtaining her RN licensure from the State Board of Nursing, as a long-held dream. “I always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “I watched my parents take care of their parents. I was probably seven-years-old when my grandmother moved in with us and maybe 13 or 14 when my grandfather began showing signs of Alzheimer’s. My parents showed them such respect that I knew I wanted to do this for others.”

“I became a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in 2001 and worked in a nursing home when my children were young and needed me, so I didn’t get my RN degree then,” she explained. “The children don’t need me as much now because they are 24, 22 and 12. I started my pursuit to becoming an RN in 2015 and completed it in 2017.” Along the way she never lost her nurturing tendencies and was voted “Most Caring” by the other students in her class at Southern.

In January, Pack and Alfrey began as Nurse Externs and, according to both, the experience allowed them to bring everything they were studying into focus. “I’m a very hands on learner,” said Alfrey. “I can read a book front to back and still not know how to do something, but show me or let me do it and I’ve got it. Having the Nurse Extern experience really helped me apply my studies to real life. I can’t say enough about all the nurses and other professionals in the ICU as they always had time to explain anything to me.”

Pack agrees about the help provided in the ICU. “They never seemed rushed or unwilling to take the time with me,” she said. “I could ask them anything!” Pack also feels that being a Nurse Extern in a smaller hospital broadens the experience. “You work with everyone in the hospital and every type of medical discipline. It’s very hands-on. In some of the bigger hospitals, the Nurse Externs just get to observe, but here you are expected and allowed to participate.”

Alfrey says that being a Nurse Extern brings a number of perks. “First, they pay you for the hours you work even though you are learning. I have been able to save most of that money and it will go toward my tuition to complete my BSN and CRNA. I know they are offering scholarships for employees and the children of employees to further their education so I’ll be applying for that too because I am now a RN at the hospital. But most of all, being a Nurse Extern gave me real experience. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a nurse until my senior year in high school, but this experience completely confirmed my decision. I remember my first ‘code’ (cardiopulmonary arrest), I was applying chest compressions and it was quite the adrenal rush.”

Another thing both newly-minted RNs agree on is the fact that the Chief Nursing Officer, Paula Vaughan, not only knows everyone’s name, but also demonstrates unfailing encouragement. “I never saw her when she didn’t have a smile on her face,” said Alfrey. “She would greet us and encourage us to be our best every day.”

Pack notes that Vaughan is just one of the many reasons she enjoys her work in the ICU at Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center. “She is so supportive, but then so is everyone. We are a team caring for the community. I am honored to do this work.”

Vaughan feels that today’s nursing students are some of the best she has seen in her long career. “I’m just so proud of every one of our Nurse Externs, Vaughn said. “They really are the cream of the crop. I already have applicants for the next class and the quality is extraordinary. I love seeing them walk through the door on their first day. It’s great knowing when we hire them full-time we will have the next group of leaders ready for the challenges of providing great medical care.”

The Heart of ARH Patient Care

A variety of new programs are being implemented for frontline nurses at the 11 Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) hospitals to enhance the level of patient care.

“Nurses are the heart of patient care and we want to make sure they have every tool at their disposal to deliver the best possible care,” said Joe Grossman, president and CEO of ARH, about the new initiatives.

“It starts as a dual endeavor,” said Dee Hughes, community chief nursing officer (CCNO) at Harlan ARH Hospital.

“Nurses are the largest employee group as being on the frontline, so they know what is going on first hand. We want to communicate from a leadership point of view, but we also want to hear what they have to say. We are working on improving communication and while it might seem like it should come from the top down, it’s really from the top and around because the key to good communication is providing information awhile listening to our nurses and their experiences.”

Hughes notes that Harlan ARH has always been extremely community focused, but she says things have changed in the area, forcing the healthcare system to view how patients receive care and make adjustments to better serve the community. Loss of jobs, drug addiction and more screening as part of the Affordable Care Act is just the beginning.

According to Hughes, there are a number of initiatives being rolled out system-wide that are reshaping the way care is given. This includes employee training, evaluating the best way to staff and retain top employees, a multi-pronged rewards program, improved communication and solid leadership.

CLICK HERE to read more the full story at 

Scholarship program announced to attract more doctors to Eastern Kentucky

A Medicaid managed-care provider will donate $180,000 to fund up to 30 scholarships aimed at getting more doctors and nurses to Eastern Kentucky.

WellCare of Kentucky announced the program Monday in Hazard.

The scholarships will be aimed at increasing the number of doctors and nurses in primary care and psychiatry, according to a news release.

CLICK HERE to read more about the scholarship program at

Two ARH Hospitals Honored with Hurst Gold Standard of Nursing Awards

Whitesburg ARH Hospital and Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center awarded the Hurst Gold Standard of Nursing by Hurst Review Services.