Cultivating an attitude of gratitude as we count our many blessings

I enjoy writing my CEO column each November because I get the opportunity to focus on the gratitude that everyone at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital has for our community, patients, and families, and the gratitude that we receive daily from these same groups.

It’s why I, and every colleague here, believe healthcare to be the most rewarding career there since we strive to make a meaningful and healing difference in people’s lives.

In contemplating what I’m grateful for as 2023 winds down, the most significant gift I see is our community’s unwavering long-term support, and through periods of change that haven’t always been easy. Change can be exciting, but uncertainty and challenges often accompany a transition as significant as the one we experienced in 2019, when HCH became part of HCA Healthcare.

I had little time to gain an understanding of our hospital and community before Covid-19 came, shortly after I arrived in December, 2019. While much happened during the pandemic that we’d prefer to forget, this period did allow us to create a strategy for our future. Tomorrow hinges on growth coupled with a culture committed to the best care and service you can expect from any hospital. Allow me to share some of the changes we’re most proud of.

We recently restarted our surgical services program after being shut down 10 years ago. We currently offer same day surgery, meaning you arrive in the morning and go home the same day. We provide general surgery, colonoscopy, and orthopedic surgery again — our newest service, thanks to the arrival of Dr. Michael Moriarty. In fact, he performed our first orthopedic procedure in August. It’s a big win for our community that they can access this care right at home, and I hear this when I get out into the community. We will continue to explore new services we can add.

Our extraordinary caregivers and committed team members across HCH create every patient’s experience. They drive the care journey and whether a patient remembers if they were the focus, from their treatment to whether they felt listened to and treated with dignity and respect.

I’m often asked by my HCA Healthcare peers what the “special sauce” is here, as we rank at the top of our company and the industry for our patient experience and quality outcomes. My answer? We have a great culture. Our people, while highly qualified, also care like family. 

This culture drives great outcomes. For example, it has been a full decade since we had a patient develop a hospital acquired infection related to urinary catheters (known as a CAUTI infection) or a blood stream infection associated with a central intravenous catheter, or CLABSI. Trust me when I tell you this is uncommon. It reflects our daily focus on assuring the high level of patient safety we’re known for, thanks to HCH’s extraordinary team members.

We are also excited with our recent certification as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital (ASRH). In conjunction with the Joint Commission, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association accredit hospitals that meet the highest, most current standards of stroke care, nurture efficient caregiver teams, and provide excellent care consistency within the hospital and the health system. This accomplishment reflects the commitment our great emergency room nurses and doctors, and their EMS provider partners have to best practices. You should feel confident that you can receive the best care possible in our ER.

I am also proud to share that of the 190+ emergency rooms in HCA Healthcare, ours was ranked as the #1 ER in the company for patient experience. This reflects sustained top box ratings over the last year. We were also recognized with having the best ER physician in the company, Dr. John Worthington. Having worked in this industry for more than 35 years, I feel well-qualified to note that Dr. Worthington is one of the best you will find anywhere. His experience, expertise, and bedside manner are without comparison.

I give thanks to our providers, pharmacy, lab team, radiology team, and our EMS partners. As they say, it takes a village, and the HCH “village” enables our larger community village to be cared for compassionately. I also have deep gratitude for the unwavering support of our community, without which we wouldn’t be where we are.

While many rural hospitals in our country face struggles that are causing them to reduce or curtail services, and even to close, we’re growing at HCH. We are poised for a powerful future and fully supported by HCA Healthcare, which continues to invest heavily in us, and to which I give one more note of gratitude.

I wish all the best to our community for a Thanksgiving that is peaceful and filled with family and friends.

  • Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO Tom Neal 

Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.

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