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Valley Health Services receives 2019 Community Partnership Award at Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting

April 4, 2019



Valley Health and Herkimer BOCES officials pose for photo with Community Partnership Award


Valley Health Services received the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES 2019 Community Partnership Award during the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 4, at the William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. From left: Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent Sandra Sherwood, Valley Health Services Administrator Kathy Eisenhut, Valley Health Services Director of Nursing Melissa Ippolito, Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program Coordinator Sara Nicolette and Herkimer BOCES Director of Adult, Early Childhood and Outreach Education Mary Kline.




HERKIMER – Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Health Science Careers 2018 graduate Lyli Cirillo remembers distinctly how she felt when she was hired right out of high school as a certified nursing assistant at Valley Health Services in Herkimer.

“Relieved,” she said. “It was very relieving.”

Cirillo, of Central Valley, worked as a resident assistant at Valley Health Services during her junior and senior years at Herkimer BOCES and also participated in clinical there as part of the Health Science Careers class.

That’s just one example of the strong collaboration between Valley Health Services and Herkimer BOCES – both with the Health Science Careers class for high-school juniors and seniors and with the Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program.

For these reasons, Herkimer BOCES named Valley Health Services as the recipient of the 2019 Community Partnership Award during the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 4, at the William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.

Also at the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting, Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent Sandra Sherwood did a “Creating Opportunities for Growth” presentation, the Richfield Springs Central School Drumline directed by Paul Drake provided the entertainment and the Herkimer BOCES Culinary Hospitality program with instructor Dominick Mauro served hors d’oeuvres and a buffet dinner.

Valley Health Services Administrator Kathy Eisenhut and Director of Nursing Melissa Ippolito attended the Annual Meeting to accept the Community Partnership Award.

“They’re so supportive of our program,” Herkimer BOCES Director of Adult, Early Childhood and Outreach Education Mary Kline said. “Just above and beyond.”

Eisenhut said the cooperation has benefited both sides – with Valley Health Services able to find strong candidates for jobs.

“We’re very honored to accept the award,” Eisenhut said. “It’s a strong partnership we’ve had over the years.”

‘The partnership’

Valley Health Services is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1984. It has grown from 32 to 160 beds and is a long-term care and rehabilitation facility.

Valley Health Services provides skilled nursing and long-term care, short-term inpatient rehabilitation and subacute care, outpatient rehabilitation, adult day healthcare and palliative care.

There is a focus on providing quality care for the body, mind and spirit, Eisenhut said.

“Quality of life, I think, is the overall goal of the whole facility,” she said.

A lasting partnership with Herkimer BOCES has been in place for more than 20 years. The Community Partnership Award is a nice way to recognize that, Ippolito said.

“I think it’s an honor – we certainly enjoy working with the BOCES program,” she said. “Staffing is a huge challenge. People going into the field is not where it needs to be, and that’s everywhere. I feel the partnership helps bring the young people into the field and encourages them to go on in their careers.”

In addition to working closely with the health-related BOCES programs, Valley Health Services also hosts special education students from the Herkimer BOCES Career Awareness class every week. The students help with cleaning, paper shredding, decorating and spending time with residents during activities.

Also, Eisenhut has served as a fill-in clinical instructor for the Health Science Careers class, and Ippolito has done the same for the adult nursing program.

Ippolito is a graduate of what is now the Herkimer BOCES Health Science Careers program. She did her clinical at Valley Health Services and worked there during high school.

“It definitely started my nursing career,” she said.

‘Professional workplace’

Herkimer BOCES Health Science Careers students do their clinical experience at Valley Health Services in the fall as seniors and in the spring as juniors – totaling more than 100 hours. They work closely with residents and help with feeding, ambulation and personal care – such as dressing and bathing, Health Science Careers instructor Christe Zambri said.

“They get to work in a professional workplace and gain experience working with others,” she said. “They’re able to practice the skills that they need for their certification exam.”

The students also learn the importance of attendance, Zambri said.

“The staff there rely on them every day, and they make their assignments based on our students being there,” she said.

Many students are hired to work there as a resident assistant while going to high school and as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) after graduating, Zambri said.

 “They help us ensure the program’s curriculum meets the standards of the workplace, and we help them keep their facility staffed,” she said.

The clinical work is a great introduction for the Health Science Careers students, Ippolito said.

“They truly learn the role of a CNA, and they get to spend some quality time with a different generation,” Ippolito said. “It kind of eases them into their career and the choices they are making.”

Eight current seniors and two juniors work as resident assistants at Valley Health Services, and about 15 CNAs there are from the Herkimer BOCES program, Ippolito said. There also are other students who go onto other careers in healthcare but still gain helpful experience through the clinical, she said.

The residents and patients at Valley Health Services look forward to the students attending, Ippolito said.

“Absolutely,” she said. “They love it.”

“I think our staff does too,” Eisenhut said. “Extra hands. Extra eyeballs.”

Students get to know residents and help address their concerns. Often during lunch, there is one student per every two residents, Eisenhut said.

“Everybody has somebody to talk to,” she said.

‘Great experience’

The clinical visits allow students to do basic nursing care, which is where everyone starts, Eisenhut said.

“I think it gives them great experience for the careers they’re continuing,” she said. “We’re very hopeful that when they do their clinical experience here, they like what they do and apply.”

Two students who graduated from the Health Science Careers program last school year did just that – Ippolito’s daughter, Gabrielle Ippolito, and Cirillo.

Gabrielle Ippolito, of West Canada Valley, and Cirillo said they found the clinical visits to be very helpful.

“It kind of prepares you for what you’re going to do in the future,” Gabrielle Ippolito said.

They both worked as resident assistants during high school.

“It was exciting,” Cirillo said.

Being hired as CNAs out of high school was a great way for them to both start off, they said.

“We didn’t have to worry about where we would go,” Gabrielle Ippolito said.

Gabrielle Ippolito is also attending Herkimer College and plans to go into occupational therapy, and Cirillo plans to become a licensed practical nursing (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

‘Our LPNs’

Valley Health Services regularly provides financial support for employees who are interested in joining the Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program. The organization also provides mandatory study time for those employees to prepare for their nursing board exams, and representatives attend the Herkimer BOCES LPN graduation ceremony.

“They’re always extremely supportive,” Kline said.

There also were periods of time when adult students did their clinical training at Valley Health Services.

“They did everything they’d be expected to do as an LPN after graduating,” Eisenhut said.

Five employees are currently in the LPN program, Melissa Ippolito said. In addition to employees on scholarship, others go through Herkimer BOCES first and then apply for the job.

“I would say the majority of our LPNs have been through the BOCES LPN program,” Melissa Ippolito said. “I can’t really think of any that didn’t go through the BOCES program.”

Interested students who are in good standing are able to request the scholarships through writing a letter, and the request is then reviewed, Melissa Ippolito said.

“When they come to us and say they want to go to school, they’re ready,” she said. “They want to be here and continue to care for the residents they already love.”

The system also helps Valley Health Services fill LPN positions with well-trained employees, Melissa Ippolito said.

“We certainly need them,” she said.

Valley Health Services is there for students through the whole process – from a bad test to graduation, she said.

“We want to be there for their celebration as well,” she said. “They’ve worked hard.”

‘Very good partners’

Valley Health Services LPNs Amy Randall and Shelley Johnson graduated from the Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program in 2004 and 2018, respectively, while working as CNAs at Valley Health.

“It was helpful,” Randall said “They kind of pushed me to go further.”

Johnson agreed.

“I got to go right into being an LPN, so it was helpful in that way,” she said.

One reason for the strong partnership is the long-term stability of the administrators at Valley Health Services, Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program Coordinator Sara Nicolette said.

“I think the stability and the commitment they bring to the area is reflected in their willingness to support people with continuing their education,” Nicolette said. “They’re always wanting to hire our graduates, and they send us high quality people to test and train. They’ve always been very good partners. It’s just an excellent working relationship.”




Kathy Eisenhut and Melissa Ippolito in front of the room at BOCES Annual Meeting


Valley Health Services Administrator Kathy Eisenhut (left) and Valley Health Services Director of Nursing Melissa Ippolito (right) accept the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES 2019 Community Partnership Award during the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 4, at the William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Richfield Springs Drumline performs in lobby at Herkimer BOCES


The Richfield Springs Central School Drumline directed by Paul Drake performs during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 4, at the William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.




Culinary students in front of a crowd of school officials at Annual Meeting


Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Culinary Hospitality students introduce themselves in front of local school officials during the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 4, at the William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. Culinary Hospitality students and instructor Dominick Mauro served hors d’oeuvres and a buffet dinner to Annual Meeting guests.




Health Science Careers students at Valley Health Services


Current Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Health Science Careers juniors pose for a photo with their instructors during their March 14 clinical at Valley Health Services in Herkimer.




Melissa Ippolito and Kathy Eisenhut at Valley Health Services


Valley Health Services Director of Nursing Melissa Ippolito (left) and Administrator Kathy Eisenhut (right), pictured here in a conference room at Valley Health Services in Herkimer, recently accepted the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES 2019 Community Partnership Award.




Health Science Careers student and Valley Health Services resident


Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Health Science Careers junior Alexandra Lien, of Mount Markham, works with Valley Health Services resident Stephen Smith on March 14.