Community Catalyst – Programs

HealthFirst Center Community Ambassadors for CVMCHealth_First_Center

by Ginger Biggerstaff, MSN, RN, NEA-BC

Health First Center exists to support community health promotions through screenings, age- appropriate programming, education and support services. The Center serves as resource to surrounding county residents, employees of CVMC, under-served populations, faith communities, businesses and school systems. Programs are developed, implemented and evaluated in collaboration with CVMC and various community partnerships. Tailoring our services to the needs of the community, programs are designed to reflect the needs of our diverse and growing community.

HealthFirst Center is directed by Ginger Biggerstaff, MSN, RN-BC with Sharon Smith, MSN, RN serving as the Programs Coordinator. As the Programs Coordinator, Sharon serves as the primary resource for community partners desiring to collaborate on events, requesting services and classes. During 2012, departmental quality improvements focused on:

  • inclusion of an evidence based foundation for programs/classes offered
  • assurance that all classes were delivered by the most knowledgeable subject matter expert  available
  • aligning community education needs with Catawba County Community Health Assessment results
  • fulfilling CVMC philosophy’s of excellence in customer service and community collaboration

The staff of HealthFirst Center consists of seven nurses, two professional educators and one support personnel. All nurses hold a BSN or MSN degree with an average of 29 years nursing experience ranging from Maternal-Child Services, Public Health, Nursing Education, Clinical Management, Oncology, Occupational Health and Health Promotions. Provided is an overview of 2012 program, class and service enhancements supporting the mission of the department and organizational vision for being a community catalyst.

Maternal Child Services – Pregnancy and Parenting Programs

Karen Milller (RN), Marie Wimmer (RN), Natalie Barkley (RN) and Tonya Moss (RN) serve as the center’s Maternal Child Specialists. At HFC, the Maternal Child Specialists are honored to be a part of a childbirth experience and are proud to offer a variety of high quality programs to assist the entire family through the childbirth experience


Health_First_Center_1Lactation classes and Breastfeeding Support groups offer expectant Moms the opportunity to learn from subject matter experts and socialize with those who are experiencing similar joys and challenges. Collaboration between the Birthing Center Lactation Consultants, Jackie Echelberger RN, Carla Patton RN, Ellen Minch RN and HFC Maternal Child Specialists resulted in a renewed passion for Lactation Support and Services. 2012 seemed to be the
perfect year to enhance collaboration especially in anticipation of the Pavilion opening. As we anticipated Birthing Center process changes and increased patient volume, this collaboration renewed mutual respect for each other’s roles, enhanced relations between departments and developed a more solid framework for problem solving and utilization of resources.

HFC has provided a full line of maternity and nursing bras, breast pumps for purchase or rental, and breastfeeding accessories and supplies by Medela® for an extended period of time but in 2012, we increased the volume of Medela breast pump products and supplies due to community demand. In addition to our most popular classes, Lamaze and Breast Feeding, Medela sales, rentals and bra fittings now rank among our most popular services offered for mothers-to-be. Fashionable nursing bras, camisoles and gowns became a 2012 ‘hit’ which has increased department revenue.

Did you know? An added convenience is our Medela Gift Registry.  New or expectant moms can complete personal “wish lists” of Medela items when visiting the HFC and will receive reminder cards to include in upcoming baby shower invitations.  Friends and family can easily review the wish list and make a purchase at HFC.  Medela Gift Certificates are also available to use toward products or pump rental.


During the Fall of 2012, our existing structure and schedule for Lamaze classed were assessed and re-designed to assist in accommodating the increasing requests for classes based upon customer schedules and increased volume. Additional weekend classes are now being offered as a result.


Periodically, an expectant mother registers to participate in HFC Lamaze classes but then finds herself placed on bed rest prior to the scheduled class. Now, HFC provides a low cost alternative through an online Lamaze program and study guide. This new option was implemented in Dec 2012 and has been a positive learning experience for those few who have needed to participate. Just like our onsite classes, educational support from our instructors is only a phone call away.

Child Health & Safety

Having oversight for all programs, Sharon Smith RN groomed Kayla Hefner BS for the Child Health and Safety Specialist position in the spring of 2012. CVMC is the lead agency for Safe KidsHealth_First_2 Catawba County Coalition and employs Kayla as the Coalition’s Coordinator. The Safe Kids Catawba County Coalition is a part of Safe Kids International, the first and only national organization dedicated solely to the prevention of accidental childhood injury- the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. For more information go to


In 2012, a total of $4374 was received from state & national grants to support community education and purchase helmets  for bike rodeos and car seats for underserved populations.


This class, redesigned in 2012, offers basic safety information for new babysitters including stranger danger, fire & cooking, poisons, first aid, CPR and baby care. NEW for 2013 – CPR certification is awarded upon successful completion of the class.

Breast Health and Disease Prevention

Peggy Messick, RN, Disease Prevention Specialist and Brenda Putnam, BA, Breast Health Specialist, work closely with numerous community resources to provide education, support services and screenings. Ongoing community collaborations include, but are not limited to the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Catawba County Public Health, NC Cooperative Extension, Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministries, Catawba County Cancer Coalition, Catawba County School System, Hickory City Schools, Centro Latino and numerous faith communities.


During the fall of 2012, the American Cancer Society’s Epidemiology Research Program invited men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 years who have no personal history of cancer to join this historic research study. The goal for Catawba County was to enroll at least 200 adults from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. CPS-3 is a grassroots effort where local communities from across the country can support cancer research not just through fundraising efforts, but also by participating actively in the research study. HFC department members Ginger Biggerstaff RN, Sharon Smith RN, Peggy Messick RN and Brenda Putnam BA joined forces with Cancer Center Leadership serving as Community Volunteers to solicit participation and communicate study goals. In addition, HFC served as one designated Catawba County location for the study enrollment.

GRANT FUNDING RECEIVED – Catawba County Wig Bank – Catawba County Breast Cancer Coalition

Health_First_3The cost of wigs, mastectomy bras and prostheses are expensive and typically not the priority for cancer patients during difficult economic times. The ‘Wig Bank’, an extension of the Catawba County Breast Cancer Coalition coordinated by Brenda Putnam BA, Breast Health Specialist provides free fitting sessions and products to cancer patients as a result of grants received from the American Cancer Association. Peggy Messick RN, ONC provides an integral role in the coalition as the primary grant writer. As a result of Peggy’s dedication to the cause, in 2012, a total of $4000 was received in Komen grants. 


October 17, 2012 was the first nationally recognized BRA DAY (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) in the USA. Statistics reveal that nationally 7 out of 10 women are unaware of the choice of breast reconstruction surgery after breast cancer.  Health First Center led the CVMC initiative to partner with Hickory Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery & Piedmont Plastics in this national recognition day to support awareness of reconstruction providers in the Hickory Community.  Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day is an initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. During October and for the first time, HealthFirst Center events focusing on Breast Cancer Awareness included information specific to Breast Reconstruction Awareness. 


HFC first became involved with Sister to Sister Parties in 2012. In conjunction with Komen NC Foothills Affiliate, the Catawba County Breast Cancer Coalition offers a Sister Party, free of charge, to any minority women’s group.  Sister Parties are a way to reach women about the importance of early detection for breast cancer.  Risk factors for breast cancer and ways to lower one’s risk is also discussed. In addition to the free education, each participant receives a meal, thank you gift and informational packet to share with others. Due to the popularity of the classes, additional funding sources were successfully obtained to meet ongoing community needs. 

NEW PAVILION SPACE – Resource CenterHealth_First_4

During the early phase of Pavilion construction, the existing Cancer Resource Center was demolished to ‘make way’ for the new Infusion Center. The new ‘Resource Center’ is conveniently located in the Pavilion adjacent to the Infusion Center. The center serves as a central resource for patients, families and friends of those with cancer. A variety of brochures, websites and resources (support groups & programs, supplies, services) are made available within the center. For guest convenience, a computer is available on site to search additional information about a specific cancer, its treatment or clinical trials. Staffing of the center has been a collaborative effort between HFC and the Cancer Center.


In November of 2012, HFC nurses Peggy Messick RN & Sharon Smith RN joined the CVMC Chest Pain Center Accreditation Steering Committee to assist in accomplishing the tasks required for meeting accreditation community education requirements.

EXPANDING INTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS& REVISED PROCESSES – Breast Center of Excellence (BCOE) Steering Committee & Reach to Recovery

Ginger Biggerstaff MSN, RN-BC, Director, Peggy Messick, RN, ONC, Disease Prevention Specialist and Brenda Putnam, BA, Breast Health Specialist are active members of the BCOE Steering Committee led by Melanie Lutz RN, ONC, Cancer Center Nurse Director. Outreach services provide insight to the community needs related to education and screening services. In addition, the Reach to Recovery Program, Coordinated by Brenda Putnam is an essential component of the continuum of care for breast cancer surgical or procedural patients. 

Brenda works collaboratively with CVMC nurses to provide information and support to CVMC patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or who may be facing a breast cancer diagnosis. During the fall of 2012, a decline in the number of Reach to Recovery consults being requested was identified as a result of BCOE data review. The HealthFirst Center Director, Programs Coordinator and Breast Health Specialist focused efforts on reviewing patient case identification and nursing consultation processes. Collaboration between HealthFirst Center and Nurse Directors from Clinical Information Systems, Day Surgery, Oncology and the Surgical Unit, resulted in the identification of ‘drift’ in the practice of consulting Reach to Recovery via Meditech. As a result of nurse re-education of the Meditech process and reporting services provided by the Surgical Suite, Reach to Recovery Consults have increased dramatically over a short period of time resulting in service improvement and timely consultations. 

EXPANDING COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS – Newton-Conover School Health Advisory Council

In November of 2012, HFC Programs Coordinator Sharon Smith RN, joined the Newton-Conover School Health Advisory Council as the CVMC health outreach representative as the school system embarked on a new health journey for staff and students. Outreach expectations included: 1) Membership on Newton-Conover School Health Advisory Council, 2) Assist with planning/evaluation of student/staff health needs including screenings (i.e. BMI, Cholesterol finger sticks, Blood Pressures, Mobile Mammography), 3) Input into wellness program development, 4) Ongoing communications of community education/wellness/screenings & 5) Provide promotional items at Newton-Conover City Schools Wellness Events.

Health_First_5TARGETING NEW CUSTOMERS – Lunch & Learns

One 2012 department initiative focused on recruiting new target groups for center activities. Invited to participate in winter classes were ‘New Comer’ Clubs. Lunch and Learn activities not only provide a health promotions  educational component but introduce community newcomers to the center and most importantly to the health care organization including services, centers of excellence and care providers.

Social Media

HFC joined the social media arena by launching our departmental Facebook page. Managed by Carla Brotherton, Operations Specialist, Facebook has allowed for the center to advertise services, products, and classes and well as be a resource for health promotions dialogue for our customers. Center reminders and communications via Face Book allows followers to keep abreast of ‘what’s happening’ around the center. To connect with Health First Center at Valley Hills Mall, sign up for Facebook today at