Media Guidelines

Sentara understands the nature of breaking news, deadlines and media competition and appreciates media interest in our news – we recognize it is a two-way street.

During breaking news events, we will work with reporters and photographers to help you get the information, photos and video you need to tell your stories, while protecting patient privacy, ensuring safe operations and showing sensitivity to families in crisis.

However, our first duty is to patient care, safety and privacy. We are bound by federal HIPPA laws that limit the amount of patient information we may release without specific consent from a patient or patient representative for additional information.

These overriding factors may sometimes be incompatible with breaking news deadlines and the request for interviews with patients or family members. We will always do our best to accommodate you but may not always be able to provide what you want, or provide it as quickly as you want it.  There are certain guidelines we expect to be observed, including:

  • Sentara hospitals, offices and medical practices are private facilities, subject to our rules of access – please see below. 
  • Most patients are not public figures. They are entitled to privacy unless they specifically provide a signed Sentara patient consent form to participate in interviews.
  • Patients may choose to opt out of information releases about them and we will honor their requests for privacy.

Rules for Media Coverage at Sentara Facilities

Escorts required: On-duty reporters and photographers must call/text Sentara via the media pager or email to arrange access to Sentara facilities, even if you are invited by a patient, family member or physician. 

  • Please don’t call and say you’ll be there in 10 minutes.
  • We need time to travel or arrange for an escort.
  • We need to assure patient is medically appropriate.
  • We need to obtain a patient consent.

Patient consent form required: A signed Sentara patient consent form must be obtained by an authorized Sentara representative prior to interviewing, photographing or videotaping a patient in our facilities. 

Access limited to story requested:  Reporters and photographers will limit their news coverage to the story requested.

Other patients are off-limits: When shooting photos or video in common areas, avoid capturing other patients.

Patient care and safety come first:

  • Sentara personnel may be called away before or during an interview.
  • Interviews, photography and videotaping will cease upon request of the patient, a family member, nurse, physician or Sentara representative.
  • Access to patients may be delayed or denied if the clinical team determines that media would aggravate a patient’s condition or interfere with a plan of care, such as surgery, imaging or other required services.

We cannot supply patient names: To provide a condition report on a patient, we need a first and last name and correct spelling.

Condition reports limited to one word: We use language acceptable under HIPAA laws and American Hospital Association guidelines and cannot elaborate on a patient’s status without written consent by the patient or an authorized family member: 

  • Undetermined: Patient is still being assessed. 
  • Critical: Vital signs unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious in an ICU.
  • Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient acutely ill. 
  • Fair: Vital signs stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, may be uncomfortable or in pain.
  • Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, alert and comfortable.

Deferrals to public agencies: When patients are police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters or military hurt in the line of duty, Sentara may defer to the patient’s agency or command for release of information.

Confirming patient deaths: We will confirm patient deaths after appropriate notification of family members.

Call/text the media pager for all Sentara access: Even if you are just going live from a hospital parking lot, call/text the media pager. We can ease the way for you by informing safety and security personnel and administration.

Nightingale, Coast Guard, Navy helicopters at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital:

  • Call/text the media pager to let us know a photographer/videographer is coming.
  • Our team will notify safety and security, and may ask them to meet you.
  • You may set up at the gate on the south (Medical Tower) side of the helipad.  From this position, helos usually land left-to-right.
  • For safety: Remove caps and ID badges that could blow off your person.  
  • You will be on Sentara property and subject to the escort rule.
  • Avoid photos or video that show patients’ faces.
  • Do not advance onto the emergency department parking lot to follow the gurney.  Remain on the sidewalk/crosswalk.
  • When patient arrival is complete, depart Sentara property by crossing Gresham Drive, which runs between Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and medical tower.

Thank you for abiding by Sentara’s media coverage rules. Adhering to these rules and guidelines enables us to work to accommodate media requests as quickly and effectively as possible while maintaining patient safety, comfort and confidentially.