In elementary school, Christina Feggans-Langston remembers abandoning the bus stop outside her house for the one three blocks away in the public housing complex at Westhaven. The swap made sense: her friends were there, it was livelier, more fun, and always encircled by a protective layer of grownups and extended family members she knew well.
Today, as she returns to Westhaven as the community’s new clinic nurse and a clinical instructor at the School of Nursing, the place still feels like home.
“This community is a hidden gem,” Feggans-Langston said of the 60-year-old community. “There’s so much talent here, so much history, so many stories. I’m glad to be back.”
Feggan-Langston’s return comes after a circuitous journey of her own. She first attended college planning to teach, but found herself at odds with certain educational staples, like the SOLs. After becoming a certified medical assistant, she was inspired by the nurses around her to return to school for a third time to earn a BSN, and then an MSN. Since then, she’s cared for patients at UVA’s Transplant Clinic and, later on, at its Infectious Diseases Clinic.
During those years, she loved it when she ran into old friends, their parents, and grandparents, many of whom still lived in Westhaven, which lies just a few short blocks from UVA’s Grounds. So, when a job opened up as for a clinic nurse (after the retirement of award-winning assistant professor Sharon Veith was announced last year), Feggans-Langston leapt again.
“Nursing assessments aren’t always physical. If it’s a general assessment outside of a physical ailment, I’ll ask, ‘How are your meals? Are you warm enough? Any trouble paying for medications? Is there anything outside your health that’s bothering you?’”Christina Feggans-Langston, Westhaven clinic nurse and a clinical instructor
“I grew up three blocks away,” she said. “To me, this job isn’t just about having a body in a position: it’s having someone who looks like you and truly knows and is comfortable with this community. I’ve come full circle.”
Top of mind in her new role, as she reconnects with old friends and mentors nursing students on their community and public health clinical rotations, is ensuring the clinic operates in a trustworthy and transparent fashion. That it feels safe, confidential, useful, warm.
In her health promotion and primary prevention work, Feggans-Langston, along with her clinic coordinator colleague Shelly Bryant, act as “connectors": doing home visits and nursing assessments, giving residents rides to medical appointments, helping with medication, and offering supplies in a pinch, like condoms, toilet paper, grocery cards, diapers, as well as company to those who stop in—work that hearkens back to the efforts of Black public health nurses throughout history.
With Bryant and community partners from Charlottesville’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR), and the City of Promise, among others, Feggans-Langston hopes to expand clinic offerings, too: a visiting NP for spring sports physicals, new mothers’ and mental health support groups, HIV- and hepatitis-C testing, vaccine clinics, first aid training, even help with meal planning. Schooled in trauma-informed care, Feggans-Langston’s approach is careful, warm, holistic. She’ll encourage her students to do the same.
“Nursing assessments aren’t always physical,” said Feggans-Langston. “If it’s a general assessment outside of a physical ailment, I’ll ask, ‘How are your meals? Are you warm enough? Any trouble paying for medications? Is there anything outside your health that’s bothering you?’”
Navigating health issues on top of work and home life can be tricky, Feggans-Langston acknowledged, “like putting together pieces of a puzzle."
It’s why, as she reconnects with old friends, Feggans-Langston—herself a mother to two teenage boys—reminds Westhaven residents: “I’m here. I want to be a resource. My door is always open. I’m telling everybody: please, just come.”
The Westhaven Nursing Clinic is supported by the Charlottesville City Department of Human Services and Community Attention, Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Public Housing Association of Residents, UVA Health, the Legal Aid Center, City of Promise, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, and the UVA School of Nursing.