Year in Review: HCA Healthcare’s Top 10 Stories of 2021

Top 10 stories of 2021

For the past 365 days, COVID-19 has dominated the news headlines. When 2021 began, the COVID-19 vaccine ushered in hope and renewal in many respects. Vaccine clinics were established for HCA Healthcare colleagues and communities, restrictions were lifted and many individuals were able to resume the things they had stopped doing because of the pandemic. Throughout 2021 we learned new words and ways of being: long hauler, jab, vax, Delta variant, hybrid work, breakthrough case and now, Omicron.

While the full impact of the Omicron variant on our hospitals has yet to be seen, HCA Healthcare colleagues continue to show up, standing together to care for those in need.

After reviewing the thousands of stories spotlighted on HCA Healthcare’s channels during 2021, we identified the articles and social media stories that resonated most with our readers. From science to powerful partnerships to frontline healthcare workers showcasing the best in humanity – read below as we capture the top ten HCA Healthcare stories of 2021:

1. One year of COVID-19 vaccines

(December 2021) At the end of what many would consider the most challenging year of their careers, colleagues across HCA Healthcare shared a sense of relief with the Food and Drug Administration’s December 11, 2020 authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine — the first of three COVID-19 vaccines now in use in the United States. On December 15, 2020, Dr. Vito Capotorto, chief of staff and hospitalist medical director for Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, rolled up his sleeve to become the first HCA Healthcare colleague to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Jane Englebright, HCA Healthcare's chief nursing executive and senior vice president, administering COVID-19 vaccines to colleagues.

Dr. Jane Englebright, HCA Healthcare’s chief nurse executive and senior vice president, administered one of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Nashville to TriStar Health med-surg nurse Eboni Gordon on December 17, 2020. In an interview with Business Insider, Dr. Englebright shared how nurses who normally aren’t at the bedside were stepping up as vaccinators in the continued vaccine rollout.

The COVID-19 vaccine’s arrival was a pivotal moment across HCA Healthcare and provided hope for life on the other side of the pandemic. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of December 30, 2021, a total of 205.8 million Americans are fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting people from COVID-19, help keep adults and children from getting seriously sick and can reduce the risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

2. “Danny’s Grill”: Mercy Hospital honors HCA Healthcare colleague who served for 45 years

Danny holding his knees in shock after a sign reading "Danny's Grill" was revealed in the hospital cafeteria where he has worked for 45 years.

(September 2021) After 45 years of service at HCA Healthcare’s Mercy Hospital in Miami, the hospital’s beloved “Grill Master”, Danny, officially retired. To celebrate the milestone, his hospital family gathered in the cafeteria to surprise him by renaming the grill, “Danny’s Grill”. A huge Miami Dolphins fan, Danny celebrated his final day at the Florida hospital in true teal and orange fashion – and, to his surprise, he was also presented with two tickets to a Dolphins game.

A video of the heartwarming surprise and Danny’s reaction went viral, with millions of views on social media and coverage on national media outlets to include CBS News, People TV, ESPN and Sports Center. Thank you, Danny, for your many years of service!

3. Healthier Tomorrow Fund to support partnerships focused on addressing high priority community needs and health equity

The Healthier Tomorrow Fund

(May 2021) HCA Healthcare’s mission to care and improve human life continued to extend outside the walls of our hospitals as the HCA Healthcare Foundation established a $50 million community impact fund. Called the Healthier Tomorrow Fund, the endeavor supports innovating initiatives focused on addressing high-priority community needs and health equity.

The fund will initially provide grants to nonprofit organizations in 25 communities where HCA Healthcare has a presence, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Palm Beach, Tampa, Tallahassee, Orlando, Kansas City, Denver, Austin, San Antonio and Asheville, with plans to expand to additional markets.

In 2022, we look forward to seeing the many ways that the Healthier Tomorrow Fund makes a positive impact in the communities we serve.

4. HCA Healthcare nurse sings to uplift a COVID-19 patient’s spirits, video leaves the internet emotional 

(October 2021) In the International Year of Health and Care Workers, it is no surprise that a video of a singing nurse donned in personal protective equipment (PPE) left the internet in awe. For HCA Healthcare nurse Allison Walker, providing care is more than medical attention, it means meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of her patients at affiliate Methodist Hospital | South in Texas. “We’re here to take care of you. How you feel, what you’re concerned with and what your fears are…these all matter to us, too. It’s part of your healing,” says Allison.

HCA Healthcare colleague, Allison, dawned in PPE singing to a patient.

A nurse for over 10 years, Allison has loved singing since childhood and first began to incorporate singing with nursing during her Certified Nursing Assistant clinicals at an Alzheimer’s/dementia facility. At the facility, Allison would listen in on patients’ singing and noticed how with one song in particular, ‘In the Garden’, all of the patients – despite not being fully alert and oriented – sang the song word for word. That pivotal moment inspired her to start incorporating her gift of singing with her passion for nursing.

Recently, a COVID-19 patient and church pastor felt a pivotal change in his healing once Allison sang gospel hymns to him at Methodist Hospital | South. The patient captured a video of Allison singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ to share with his family. The video went viral and also gained the attention of CBS News, NewsWeek and ScrubMag, amongst other outlets. Allison says connecting with patients and helping them relax is a priority. “It’s a fearful time for patients,” she adds. “Sometimes I will be gowned up in full PPE singing. I’ll give patients a hug, I’ll pray with them … whatever it takes.”

Thank you, Allison, for sharing your compassionate voice with the world!

5. HCA Healthcare expands footprint, unlocks more possibilities for colleagues

Patient stretching on an exercise ball with the help of a healthcare professional.

(July 2021) With a goal of improving quality and patient experience, as well as promoting access to care, HCA Healthcare expanded post-acute care services within our organization through the announcement of a majority stake in Brookdale Health Care Services.

(November 2021) To help meet Florida’s growing need for healthcare services, HCA Healthcare also announced plans to build three new hospitals in the state. The new hospitals include a 90-bed acute care facility in Gainesville, a 60-bed hospital near The Villages and a 100-bed acute care hospital in Fort Myers. Construction is projected to begin in 2022.

Throughout 2021, career development and advancement opportunities at HCA Healthcare continued to grow. Galen College of Nursing and HCA Healthcare announced new locations including campuses in Austin, Texas, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Nashville, Tenn. and a unique partnership with Fisk University. To meet the needs of nurses currently with HCA Healthcare, Galen now offers several online programs specifically designed to expand proficiency while lowering the barriers to entry. Galen’s R.N. to BSN program features an option where Galen bills HCA Healthcare directly, allowing eligible colleagues to incur no out-of-pocket tuition expenses. With Galen College of Nursing locations in several states, continued expansion throughout HCA Healthcare communities is slated for 2022 and 2023.

6. Partnering with Google Cloud to accelerate digital transformation

Blue wires in a control room.

(May 2021) HCA Healthcare announced a multi-year partnership with Google Cloud to build on our organization’s use of information technology to accelerate the digital transformation taking place within our hospitals.

In combination with significant investments in mobility to support clinical care, the partnership with Google Cloud is expected to empower physicians, nurses and others with workflow tools, analysis and alerts on their mobile devices to help clinicians respond quickly to changes in a patient’s condition.

The partnership will also focus on impacting non-clinical support areas that may benefit from improved workflows through better use of data and insights, such as supply chain, human resources and physical plant operations, among others.

7. Helping our communities to recover after a year of extreme weather events

In times of emergency or large-scale disaster, HCA Healthcare applies our scale and experience to support colleagues and help rebuild communities. 2021 brought a historic year of storms, flooding and tornadoes – and HCA Healthcare stood ready to respond. 

February’s cold, snow and ice caused cancellations of blood drives across the nation. Colleagues at Medical City Dallas Hospital encouraged their community to schedule, when travel was safe, donation appointments to address critical blood shortages.

(February 2021) A historic winter storm ravaged Texas, where the underprepared power grid gave out and more than 4 million households lost power. Travel was nearly impossible, as many areas were covered in snow and ice. Texas is home to approximately 70,000 HCA Healthcare colleagues who work at the organization’s 46 affiliated hospitals and surgery centers and other sites of care across the state. HCA Healthcare announced $250,000 in contributions on behalf of our organization and affiliated hospitals in Texas to support relief efforts by charitable organizations, including the American Red Cross.

(August 2021) Record rainfall caused a devastating flood in Middle Tennessee that killed 20 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving many members of the community without adequate shelter and supplies. HCA Healthcare affiliate hospital TriStar Horizon Medical Center is located in Dickson, Tennessee, and serves many of the hardest hit areas. HCA Healthcare and the HCA Healthcare Foundation announced a combined $250,000 in contributions to support relief efforts by charitable organizations in Dickson, Hickman and Humphreys counties that were affected by the disastrous floods in Middle Tennessee.

During Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm, groups of colleagues volunteered to stay overnight in HCA Healthcare’s Louisiana hospitals to ensure uninterrupted patient care. (Tulane Medical Center/New Orleans, Louisiana)

(August 2021) Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana as a high-end Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. HCA Healthcare’s three hospitals in the New Orleans area – Tulane Medical Center, Tulane Lakeside Hospital and Lakeview Regional Medical Center – remained open throughout Hurricane Ida. The hurricane brought extensive power outages, leaving the hospitals to operate on generator power in the wake of the storm. To help our communities rebuild after extensive damage, HCA Healthcare and affiliate Tulane Health announced a combined $225,000 to aid in Hurricane Ida recovery and relief efforts, with individual $75,000 contributions being allocated to United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Second Harvest Food Bank and Northshore Community Foundation.

(December 2021) A severe tornado system moved across six states, destroying thousands of homes along its path, resulting in more than 70 deaths and leaving many without adequate shelter and supplies. HCA Healthcare affiliated hospital TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky and serves many of the hardest-hit areas in the state. Many hospital colleagues live in and around the affected areas and suffered significant damage to their homes and property. To support colleagues in this and other disasters, colleagues can turn to the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund — an employee-run, employee-supported 501(c)(3) charity that provides financial aid and resources to employees after an extended illness, injury, disaster or other special situations. In addition, HCA Healthcare announced it will contribute $250,000 in funding to support organizations providing relief services to communities in Kentucky.

8. Creating a more diverse pipeline of healthcare professionals

HCA Healthcare colleagues presenting a $1.5 million check to Florida A&M University's School of Allied Health Sciences representatives.

(May 2021) Healthcare announced plans to give $10 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) over the course of the next three years in communities near our hospitals in order to advance diversity in healthcare. HCA Healthcare’s local leadership teams are identifying opportunities to collaborate with HBCUs and HSIs to expand opportunities for students who may be interested in careers in healthcare and related fields. This will be accomplished through a variety of ways including internship programs, investments in curriculum development and scholarships.

(December 2021) As part of our broader commitment, HCA Healthcare gave our first large donation – $1.5 million to Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) School of Allied Health Sciences. The partnership between HCA Healthcare and FAMU will help support increased undergraduate and graduate student enrollment in the School of Allied Health Sciences, with funding directed toward scholarships and internships to support the next generation of healthcare leaders. Additionally, the funding will support the building and operations of the School of Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab that will be named the HCA Florida Healthcare Simulation Lab.

9. COVID-19 survivor becomes HCA Healthcare colleague at the same hospital he was treated

(August 2021) Inspirational COVID-19 survivor and HCA Healthcare colleague Henry James made his national television debut this year on “Good Morning America”. Henry – dubbed “The Amazing Henry” by his nurses – is now an inspiring force among the North Florida Regional Medical Center caregivers that helped to save him.

"The Amazing Henry" being wheeled out of the hospital with healthcare heroes who saved his life lining the hallway to cheer him on.

Henry was the hospital’s first admitted COVID-19 patient at the onset of the pandemic, spending a month in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) before being discharged in April 2020. As he recovered, Henry kept in close contact with his ICU “guardian angels”, visiting the hospital weekly to thank them.

The former HCA Healthcare patient grew so close to his care team that he decided to officially join the North Florida Regional Medical Center family by applying to become a colleague. As a Patient Safety Screener, Henry now provides a friendly face at hospital entrances and helps to screen entrants for infectious diseases and respiratory illnesses. Before his shifts, Henry makes sure to check in on his nurses the same way they checked on him throughout his hospital stay.

10. Supporting HCA Healthcare’s veteran community 

(November 2021) Throughout HCA Healthcare’s history, our military colleagues have always been an important part of our story. Two of our founders, Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr. and Dr. Thomas Frist, Jr. served in the United States Army and Air Force.

Avery King

For Veterans Day this year, the HCA Healthcare Foundation honored U.S. military veterans, those currently serving and their families by donating a total of $150,000 to local veteran support organizations. The donations were in honor of the late HCA Healthcare employee Avery King, an Air Force veteran who was instrumental in creating the Military Affairs Program, the organization’s veteran and military spouse employment program.

Thanks to Avery’s support, HCA Healthcare has hired more than 40,000 veterans, active-duty personnel and military spouses since 2012 and has been nationally recognized as a military-friendly employer and military spouse-friendly employer for 11 consecutive years.

With thousands of colleagues who are also part of the military community, we are proud to be nationally recognized as a military-friendly and military spouse-friendly employer for 11 consecutive years. This year, HCA Healthcare also ranked on the 2021 Military Times Best For Vets: Employers list.

A story to make you smile: HCA Healthcare emergency room nurse braids the hair of patients on her days off

(August 2021) While 2021 had its fair share of negative news, HCA Healthcare colleagues brought acts of kindness and generosity that reminded us that there is still a lot of good in the world.

Take HCA Healthcare emergency room nurse Brooke Johns for instance. Brooke spends her days off from affiliate Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas volunteering to pamper patients. Using proper sanitizing measures, Brooke goes from hospital room to hospital room to braid and brush the hair of patients who want the service. She said the act goes far beyond vanity. “There’s something therapeutic about the human touch,” says Brooke. “Human talking, human touching, it’s that connection that we’re all hard-wired for.”

The emergency room nurse is hopeful her kindness can provide a spark for those seeking comfort and connection while hospitalized. “COVID is going around and there’s a lot of isolation,” said Sierra Stein, one of Brooke’s patients. “To have someone just to be able to braid your hair makes you feel like you’re at home again.”

Proving that kindness is contagious, some of Brooke’s colleagues have joined in to braid patients’ hair.

As we close the chapter on 2021, we thank all of our readers and followers who were inspired by HCA Healthcare’s stories this year. We look forward to continuing to highlight the many ways HCA Healthcare cares for our patients, colleagues and communities in 2022!

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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