HCA Healthcare honors veteran colleagues with challenge coins
The theme for Veterans Day this year is “honor” – reflecting the military value and tradition of answering the call to duty. Across HCA Healthcare, we are proud to honor those who have served and the active-duty military members currently serving our country.
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 U.S. Army and Air Force. We are proud to be nationally recognized as a military-friendly and military-spouse-friendly employer for 12 consecutive years. In 2022, we were recognized for the third consecutive year by Military Times as a Best for Vets: Employer.
Did you know? More than 40,000 veterans, active duty service members and military spouses have joined HCA Healthcare since 2012.
We spoke with veteran colleagues about why they are proud to work for HCA Healthcare and how their military values contribute to our mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.
The HCA Healthcare challenge coin
In honor of Veterans Day this year, all self-identified veterans at HCA Healthcare were surprised with a special challenge coin from our organization’s Chief Executive Officer, Sam Hazen, for their continued commitment to service.
In the U.S. Armed Forces, challenge coins are a symbol of pride and reward hard work and excellence. They are distributed at special events for one’s heroic actions and achievements or by being a military service member. A high-ranking government official typically awards a member of their command with a coin when they have done something extraordinary. Each challenge coin is a unique symbol of a group’s identity and proves that its members, when challenged, will rise to the occasion and serve their country with pride, teamwork and unity.
HCA Healthcare has gifted challenge coins to veterans in the past, but after two years of a pandemic, this coin is especially poignant.
Dr. Tama VanDecar, chief medical officer for HCA Healthcare’s TriStar Division and executive sponsor for the Veterans Colleague Network, shares her story and expresses gratitude to her fellow veteran colleagues.
Finding success in civilian life
At HCA Healthcare, we care for our military community like family – supporting veterans who transition from service, offering growth and development opportunities and providing a strong sense of community. HCA Healthcare’s Reston Hospital Center in Reston, Virginia, is participating in the U.S. Army Career Skills Program (CSP) by hosting Lucas Rand, a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel for an internship. Lucas has served as an active duty logistics officer for more than 20 years and will be transitioning to civilian life in March 2023.
The CSP is a Department of Defense-approved Skillbridge Program for individuals seeking additional training and experience in career opportunities outside their military occupation specialty. The CSP framework enables individuals to work directly with organizations that are able to offer a structured learning program in their area of interest.
“Working at Reston has exceeded any expectation I could have had,” said Lucas. “I am truly impressed with the team and the culture they have here.”
Jon Snider, HCA Healthcare’s military affairs program manager, explains that programs like these provide a great learning experience for transitioning service members and showcase the value that military talent can bring to organizations.
“Although Lieutenant Colonel Rand’s resume doesn’t have the traditional experience that we often look for when hiring hospital administrators, he has transferrable value-based behaviors that make him the ideal candidate we need to deliver healthier tomorrows for our patients and drive operational excellence for our organization,” Jon said.
Lucas’ career goal is to transition to a hospital operations role after his official retirement from the U.S. Army. As part of his internship, Lucas has the opportunity to shadow hospital leadership, tackle small high-priority projects and dedicate time to connect with each department to learn more about their area of operation inside the hospital.
“Lucas has been an invaluable asset to the team at Reston Hospital,” said John Deardoff, chief executive officer at Reston Hospital Center. “His ability to connect with and lead people has made his integration into the organization seamless. We feel privileged to be a small part of his transition into a civilian role and look forward to seeing his success.”
The community that saved my life
Content warning: suicidal ideation; self-harm; trauma
I enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17. From the moment I stepped off the bus at the Sand Hill Reception Center at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was integrated into a team, assigned a battle buddy and taught the fundamentals of teamwork while learning the skills to be an infantryman. Throughout my six years in the military, I was a member of several diverse teams, developing ourselves to be a cohesive, effective unit to energetically engage, deter and defeat any enemy force in combat. We built our team on mutual trust and unwavering support, collaborating and adapting to accomplish any task or mission.
What we built was our own community.
I started my transition from military service in June 2012, putting a place I had called home for six years in my rearview mirror. As I arrived back home in Middle Tennessee, finding opportunities for employment was easy, but landing the role would become a war in itself. I struggled in every interview to translate my skillset, experience and leadership capabilities to every hiring manager and recruiter. I battled my way into each role, but I would go on to feel underutilized and unchallenged, never fulfilling that need to have a sense of purpose.
For nearly three years in the civilian workforce, I struggled in every way possible: physically, mentally, financially, etc. I would bounce around various roles and teams, holding nine different positions within the first three years of my transition. On the outside, I looked as if I was thriving and finding my way in a new world. However, that external perception was not an internal reality. I missed the team environment I once belonged to – where I flourished. This led me to feel as if I was in a foxhole, left to battle this fight alone with no one to call.
After battling for 27 months, I constructed a plan to take my own life in September 2014. The weight of distress and years of suppressing pain and emotion finally brought me to submission. The little hope I had left pushed me to get through 2014 in order to use the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as a means to spend my last days with family. Soon after the holidays, I received a life-saving call from a former colleague.
The call was an invitation to a football game watch party for the annual Army-Navy game. The event was hosted by the West Point Society of Middle Tennessee, an alumni network of graduates from the United States Military Academy at West Point and former/current Army Officers. When I arrived at the event, I quickly felt at ease. This was the first time in over two years that I felt a spark of comradery since I left active duty. Although I did not graduate from West Point, this group of veterans welcomed me with open arms as we cheered on Army to attempt to break a twelve-year losing streak.
This is the community that saved my life.
Throughout the event, members coached me on the skills and knowledge I needed to secure meaningful employment, including translating my roles as a junior military officer into civilian terminology, best practices in interviewing and resume writing and effective networking. Although I would put these skills and networks into action to land my first role in medical education eight months later, the most important thing that the community provided me that day was hope.
I am proud to say that I have found my team at HCA Healthcare, where I enjoy being one of more than 10,000 self-identified veterans across the enterprise.
I have come to learn over the last seven years that, as humans, we are made to live and work with others in a community where we can flourish. As military affairs program manager, I am determined to provide that same sense of community for all of our military colleagues and their families.
And so, there is only one way to end this story – Go Army, Beat Navy!
Seeking emergency mental health support
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress, reaching out for support is one of the bravest things you can do. Now, there’s an easier way to find help with a phone call, a text or a live chat.
Free, confidential suicide and crisis counseling are available 24/7 through the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
People in crisis and their loved ones can connect with trained counselors by:
- Calling or texting 988
- Using the live chat feature at 988Lifeline.org
- Calling the previous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1.800.273.8255 (1.800.273.TALK), which remains active
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About HCA Healthcare
HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 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.