City Hospital grows under executive officer's influence

March 14, 2001

City Hospital grows under executive officer's influence

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a weeklong series of stories profiling women who are making a contribution in the Tri-State area.

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer

Sandra Cleaver can look back on many milestones in her health care career.


She is the first woman and the first nurse to be hired as chief executive officer at City Hospital in Martinsburg.

She has overseen $15 million in improvements to the hospital in Berkeley County and directed two nursing staffs when City Hospital was merged with Kings Daughters Hospital in the mid-1970s.

When Cleaver went to work at Kings Daughters Hospital in Martinsburg in 1970, she helped put together the first intensive care unit in the city.


"The hospital and the community have been very good to me," Cleaver said. "And, I tell you, I think about that regularly. I'm humbled to be in this position."

Cleaver grew up on her family's dairy farm outside Harrisonburg, Va. Farm work was a part of her daily routine.

"I grew up driving the tractor, milking cows, pitching hay and feeding the chickens," she said.

After high school, she turned her interests to health care and applied to Rockingham Memorial Hospital Nursing School in Harrisonburg. At that time, it was common for hospitals to operate their own nursing schools.

After the three-year program, Cleaver obtained her diploma and worked at the hospital for a year. She took a job at South Baltimore Hospital before coming to Martinsburg in 1970.

"I had really developed an interest in critical care nursing, to go beyond basic nursing," said Cleaver, who lives with her husband and 18-year-old daughter in Clearbrook, Va.

Cleaver later obtained a bachelor's degree in nursing from Eastern Mennonite College in Virginia and her master's in nursing from the University of Maryland.

When Kings Daughters Hospital in downtown Martinsburg and City Hospital merged, Cleaver drove back and forth between the two facilities to oversee the nursing programs. She said the dual job had its challenges because the feelings of personnel at the two hospitals were not always positive. The job was complicated by union organizing efforts.

At the time City Hospital was a four-floor facility. Four floors were added to the hospital on Dry Run Road. Because she was director of nursing, Cleaver had input on how it would be designed.

It was a harbinger of things to come.

Cleaver was named assistant administrator, the position she holds now, in 1986. The title of the job was changed to chief executive officer last year.

Cleaver in 1991 oversaw a $10.5 million expansion to the hospital that involved construction of a new operating room, expansion of the emergency department and expansion of the front lobby and main entrance.

Then she oversaw construction of the Dorothy A. McCormack Cancer Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, a $5 million complex adjacent to the hospital that was opened in 1999.

"It was a great experience, seriously. I could not have appreciated the building and the physical plant without that experience," Cleaver said.

Chief executive officer is the No. 2 job at the hospital. While administrator Jon Applebaum has the ultimate authority over the 260-bed hospital, Cleaver is in charge of day-to-day operations.

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