Media Guidelines

The Sentara Corporate Communications & Public Relations team is your first point of contact for patient information, interviews and all stories on issues in health care.

Initiate stories by texting or calling the Sentara 24-hour Media Pager 757-671-4971 or by using our newsroom email during business hours.

Use the pager or the email! You will get faster service.

  • We try to answer texts or pages within five minutes.
  • Emails or voice mails to individual team members may delay our response.
  • Once we are engaged with you, we'll keep in touch via email, text or calls.

How the Media Pager works:

  • To text a query to 757-671-4971, text your name, organization, a brief synopsis of your query, a callback number and email. We'll call or text back promptly.
  • If you call the media pager - You'll hear some short, rapid beeps that stop.
  • Enter your number and hit #.
  • You'll hear more rapid beeps that stop.
  • Hang up.
  • We'll call you back promptly.

Sentara Communications will do all we reasonably can to accommodate news media requests. We understand deadlines, competition and the pressures of breaking news.

During breaking news events, we will work to provide the information and access to photos and video you need in a timely manner, while protecting patient privacy, ensuring safe operations and showing sensitivity to families in crisis.

We will use email,, our Twitter (@sentarahealth) and Facebook (Sentara Healthcare) to provide real-time updates on major events.

  • Our first duty is to patient care, safety and privacy. We are bound by federal HIPAA laws that limit the amount of Protected Health Information (PHI) we may release without specific authorization.
  • Sentara hospitals, medical practices, office buildings and parking lots are private property and subject to our rules of access. (See Rules for Media Coverage)
  • Most Sentara patients are not public figures. They are entitled to privacy and they may opt out of information released about them.

Rules for Media Coverage at Sentara facilities:

Escorts required: On-duty reporters and photographers MUST contact Sentara Communications via the 24-hour Media Pager, or newsroom email during business hours, to arrange access to any Sentara facility. Even if you are invited by a patient, family member or physician, you need to arrange an escort.

  • Do not call from the parking lot or say you'll be there in 10 minutes.
  • We need time to travel to the site or arrange for escort.
  • We need to assure patients are medically appropriate for interviews.
  • We need to obtain a signed patient consent form.

Patient Consent Form required: An authorized Sentara representative must obtain a signed Sentara patient consent form prior to media interviewing, photographing or videotaping a patient in our facilities.

Other patients are off-limits: When shooting photos or video in common areas (hospital lobby, outside main hospital doors, etc.), you must avoid capturing other patients and visitors who are not part of your story.

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 if the clinical team determines that media presence would aggravate a patient's condition or interfere with a plan of care, such as surgery, imaging or other necessary services.

We cannot supply patient names: To provide a condition report on a patient, we need a first and last name and correct spelling, and the hospital in which they are located.

One-word condition reports: We use one-word condition status that is acceptable under HIPAA laws and American Hospital Association guidelines:Undetermined: Condition has not been determined yet, patient is still being assessed.

  • Critical: Vital signs are 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 are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and lucid, but may be uncomfortable or in pain.
  • Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, alert and comfortable.
  • Note: ‘Stable' is not a patient condition.

We cannot elaborate on a patient's injuries, illness or prognosis without specific written consent by the patient or an authorized family member, such as a spouse. This is PHI.

Deferrals to public agencies: When patients are law enforcement, firefighters or military hurt in the line of duty, Sentara Communications may defer to the patient's agency or command for release of information.

Confirming patient deaths: We will confirm patient deaths after family notification.

Call the Media Pager for all Sentara access: Even if you are just going live from a hospital parking lot, call the Media Pager. We can authorize your presence with the Security team and administration and prevent unnecessary hassles.

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

  • Most medical and military helicopter landings are on the two rooftop helipads.
  • There is one overflow helipad on the ground near the emergency department.
  • If the ground-level pad is being used, you may set up at the gate on the south side of the helipad where there is a break in the hedge.
  • You will be on Sentara property.
  • The ground-level pad will be to your left and elevated.
  • For safety: Remove caps & ID badges that could blow off.
  • Avoid photos or video showing patients' faces.
  • Do not advance onto the Emergency Department parking lot to follow the stretcher into the ER. Remain on the sidewalk/crosswalk.
  • When patient arrival is complete, depart Sentara property by crossing Gresham Drive, which runs between the hospital and Medical Tower.

Sentara Hospitals

South Hampton Roads

  • Sentara Leigh Hospital (Norfolk) (Regional 24-hour hyperbaric oxygen therapy)
  • Sentara Norfolk General Hospital (Regional Level I adult trauma center & Nightingale
  • Regional Air Ambulance base)
  • Sentara Obici Hospital (Suffolk)
  • Sentara Princess Anne Hospital (Virginia Beach)
  • Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital (Level III trauma center)

Northeast North Carolina

  • Sentara Albemarle Medical Center (Elizabeth City)


  • Sentara CarePlex Hospital (Hampton)
  • Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center

Southern Virginia

  • Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital (South Boston)

Northern Virginia

  • Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (Woodbridge)

Blue Ridge

  • Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital (Charlottesville)
  • Sentara RMH Medical Center (Harrisonburg)

Free-standing Emergency Departments (EDs)

  • 24-hours.
  • Ambulance accessible.
  • Same ED physicians, imaging, labs as hospitals.
  • Immediate hospital transfers if required.

Sentara BelleHarbour (Suffolk)

Sentara Independence (Virginia Beach)

Sentara Lake Ridge (Woodbridge area, Northern Virginia)

Sentara Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care Center Proffit Road (Charlottesville)

Sentara Port Warwick (Newport News)