Meet 12 HCA Healthcare nurses who are inspiring and influencing the practice of nursing

HCA Healthcare’s more than 93,000 nurses are the cornerstone of our mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life. Across our organization’s 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, nurses show up with compassion and purpose to bring hope, strength and healing to every patient – no matter where they are in their care journey.

In addition to showing up for our patients, these extraordinary nurses show up for each other and inspire others to practice at the top of their licenses. In honor of National Nurses Month, we are sharing the stories of more than a dozen nurses who are honored to care for our patients.

Related article: HCA Healthcare announces more than $300 million in clinical education and training investments for nurses

Nurses words become a lifeline for patient: “You are safe. I have you and won’t let anything happen. All will be well.”

Nurse comforting a patient in a hospital bed.
HCA Healthcare nurse Lisa Whittaker (left) and HCA Healthcare patient Jennifer Anderton (right)

Lisa Whittaker
Lakeview Hospital (Bountiful, Utah) 

On January 17, 2020, critical care nurse Lisa Whittaker came to work to care for patients in need as she has for the past 30 years – five of which spent at HCA Healthcare’s Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, Utah. To one patient she encountered that night, Lisa is the reason she found the strength to keep fighting and is alive today.

HCA Healthcare patient Jennifer Anderton spent ten days in a coma at Lakeview Hospital after going into respiratory failure. Lisa sat diligently with Jennifer, who also happens to be a nurse, telling her she would pull through. When Jennifer woke up, she recalled everything that Lisa said on the first night of her coma, January 17. She recalled Lisa’s words of reassurance that everything would be okay, despite her critical state.

“I heard the Code Blue called. I heard a nurse say, ‘I can’t find a pulse.’ I heard the hustle of the code team trying to keep me alive,” Jennifer vividly remembered. “I was acutely aware of a woman, Lisa, talking to me in my ear and right by my side all night long.”

Jennifer adds, “I was terrified. I thought I was dying. Lisa spoke to me all night, telling me, ‘You are safe. I have you and won’t let anything happen. All will be well.’ That is the only thing I focused on was her words and voice.”

Jennifer recovered and was discharged from the hospital on January 31, 2020 – without knowing Lisa’s name. A few weeks ago, she returned to the hospital with a picture of her with the nurse who saved her life – determined to say ‘thank you.’

When Jennifer showed the image to Lakeview Hospital colleagues, they identified the nurse in the photo as Lisa Whittaker. Jennifer and Lisa have plans to reunite during National Nurses Month.

Nevada nurse prioritizes education to serve patients better

Headshot of nurse in a hospital hallway
Danielle Gustafson, Emergency Room Nurse, HCA Healthcare’s MountainView Hospital

Danielle Gustafson
MountainView Hospital (Las Vegas, Nevada)

“I treat every patient like my family because that’s the level of care every patient deserves.”

Danielle Gustafson, Emergency Room Nurse, MountainView Hospital

HCA Healthcare nurse Danielle Gustafson first walked into MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas five years ago as an accounting/finance intern. She quickly developed a dream she was determined to achieve: become a nurse. “I had always wanted to be a nurse, but being more exposed to nurses at the hospital inspired me to chase that goal,” Danielle shared. “I always looked up to the nurses and told myself I wanted to be just like them.”

Today, Danielle is living out her dream as an emergency room nurse and is continuing her education to better care for our patients as a student at HCA Healthcare affiliate Galen College of Nursing. “Furthering my education with the help of HCA Healthcare’s educational resources is important because it allows me to be the best version of myself, practicing the most current evidence-based research and ensuring safe and quality care for my patients,” Danielle said. “I was able to work full-time and attend school with the help of tuition reimbursement.”

For Danielle, showing kindness to everyone she meets in the hospital is always at the forefront of her mind. “What I can do is give them a hug or hold their hand if they are feeling overwhelmed, communicate with them as much as needed to ensure they understand what’s going on, allow family at the bedside so the patient feels comforted and be kind and show empathy as I know they are going through a difficult time,” Danielle explained.’

Florida nurse inspires a patient’s spouse to follow in her footsteps

Two nurses wearing blue scrubs smiling for a picture.
HCA Healthcare nurses Heather Taylor (left) and Stephanie Perry (right)

Stephanie Perry
HCA Florida JFK Hospital (Atlantis, Florida)

HCA Healthcare nurses are truly the difference makers when it comes to providing patient-centered care to those needing it most. That was certainly the case when HCA Florida Healthcare nurse Stephanie Perry called her husband to cancel their long-anticipated dinner plans in order to care for a patient, 42-year-old Andy Taylor. Andy was placed on respiratory support at HCA Florida JFK Hospital’s cardiovascular intensive care unit (ICU) following a sudden heart attack. 

Andy’s wife, Heather, overheard Stephanie on the phone. “My patient is unstable,” Stephanie told her husband. “I want to stay late and help out.”

Andy remained hospitalized for 23 days…and Stephanie was by his side for most of his hospital stay. After he was discharged, Stephanie unexpectedly received a note from Heather with a gift card in the mail. It read, “Thank you for giving up your date night to ensure I would have future ones. You will forever be in my thoughts and prayers and have a special place in my heart. Please plan another date on us.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Heather was so inspired by the care Stephanie provided to her husband that she decided to pursue a career in nursing at 41 years old. Throughout Heather’s nursing career journey, Stephanie has stepped up as her mentor. Ironically, Heather performed her preceptorship alongside Stephanie in the same cardiovascular ICU where her husband was treated.

Heather says, “I want to be another family’s, Stephanie Perry.”

Texas HCA Healthcare ACNO, Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel enjoys fulfilling our mission and serving mankind

Headshot of Celeste Bryson.
Celeste Bryson, Assistant Chief Nursing Officer, HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital

Celeste Bryson
Methodist Hospital (San Antonio, Texas)

Serving others runs in Celeste Bryson’s family. In 1999, she began serving in the U.S. Army as a commissioned Officer. Her father and sister were U.S. Air Force members.

“I felt a strong calling to the duty and mission of protecting and serving to support our country, and felt I could do that well by serving as part of the Army Nurse Corp,” Celeste said. The Army Nurse Corp works to provide quality healthcare for military personnel, their families and military retirees worldwide.

Now twenty years later, Celeste is as an Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the 7454th Army Reserve Medical Battalion in San Antonio, Texas. She also leads HCA Healthcare nursing colleagues as the Assistant Chief Nursing Officer (ACNO) at HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital.

When joining our organization, Celeste brought with her 27 years of critical care nursing experience, 20 years of critical care nurse practitioner experience and over a decade of leadership experience.

“My time in the military has definitely prepared me specifically in strategic leadership by helping me to cultivate my effective decision-making processes,” Celeste said. “It has allowed me to make timely, informed decisions that are in the best interest of our patients, employees, providers, community and HCA Healthcare which is our mission at hand. My service in the military has helped me develop structured achievement of success through change, by creating a structured process for me to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation, removing barriers and resistance, and enabling desired behaviors to complete the mission.”

As an ACNO, Celeste says that her favorite part of the job is “all of the beautiful lives I get to be a part of while fulfilling our mission and serving mankind.”

Family bond strengthens on the overnight nursing shift 

A son with his arm around his mother
HCA Healthcare nurses Michael Espada de los Reyes (right) and his mother, Sheila Espada de los Reyes (left)

Michael and Sheila Espada de los Reyes
Medical City Arlington (Arlington, Texas)

National Nurses Week holds special significance for Michael Espada de los Reyes and his mother, Sheila Espada de los Reyes, who are both registered nurses at HCA Healthcare’s Medical City Arlington in Arlington, Texas.

The mother and son duo work the night shift – Sheila as a clinical nurse coordinator in the mother-baby unit and Michael as a floor nurse in the neurological/medical-surgical unit. Michael jokes that it’s handy to have his mom around at work if he forgets to bring food from home for his meal – because Mom always has extra to share. But most importantly, he says his mom has been an inspiring mentor.

“Just the way she takes care of her family, giving us TLC – tender, loving care – I also see her doing this with her patients. I first saw this when I was a kid and visited her at work at the hospital. People love her, and she inspired me to become a nurse and help other people.”

Michael Espada de los Reyes, Neurological/Medical-Surgical Unit Nurse, Medical City Arlington

“I’m so proud of my son,” Sheila says. “He gives the best care for his patients, and they often consider him as family.”

Nursing runs in Michael and Sheila’s familywhich immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Sheila has been a nurse for over 25 years, with the last ten at Medical City Arlington. Michael has worked in his first nursing role for three years at the same hospital. Michael’s younger brother has also chosen to become a nurse, as well as Sheila’s sister.

“I love being a nurse,” Michael said. “For me, it’s a calling.” Sheila agreed, adding that she loves “touching the lives of people, giving compassionate and excellent care, and sharing blessings of how beautiful life is.”

Cancer survivor helps her oncology nurse say, “I do”

A wedding on the water officiated by a former cancer patient.
HCA Healthcare oncology nurse Tiffany Knepshield got married to her husband with the help of a former cancer patient, Julie Marshall, serving as the officiant.

Tiffany Knepshield
Johnston-Willis Hospital
(Richmond, Virginia)

“She will always be a part of my life.” HCA Healthcare patient and cancer survivor, Julie Marshall, fulfilled her nurse’s wish by officiating her wedding after the two developed a special bond.

Diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma in the summer of 2021, Julie went through aggressive chemotherapy at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. During her six-cycle treatment, she formed a close relationship with her care team, which included one of her nurses, Tiffany Knepshield.

When Tiffany learned that Julie was a chaplain, she was her first choice when it came time to find someone to officiate her wedding. “The wedding was beautiful,” Julie recalled. “Standing on that dock, pronouncing her and her husband as husband and wife was just an honor for me. They’re special people.”

Now in remission, Julie continues to spend time with Tiffany and her new husband. “Our relationships with our chemo patients don’t stop after they finish their cycles,” Tiffany explained. “They’re all a family and we love them so much. It’s awesome to have that connection outside of work. Julie will always be a part of my life now.”

‘Nurse Baldy’ finds unique way to connect with patients

Nurse and a patient making a thumbs up hand gesture.
HCA Healthcare patient, Alfred, is grateful for the care HCA Healthcare nurse Benjamin Rawcliffe gave to him during his COVID-19 hospitalization.

Benjamin Rawcliffe (Nurse Baldy)
Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center (Las Vegas, Nevada) 

‘Nurse Baldy’ is a fan favorite at HCA Healthcare’s Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. When walking into new patients’ rooms, Benjamin Rawcliffe often introduces himself with this nickname as a way to connect with them.

“This usually puts a smile on their faces and allows a positive care experience to begin,” explained Benjamin, the hospital’s director of critical care. “When the pandemic began and all patients could see were fully gowned, masked and goggled care team members, I decided to use one of my defining features to help them recognize me and feel confident they knew who was entering their rooms. I greeted them with a sort of bow so they could see it was ‘Bald Ben.’ That turned into ‘Nurse Baldy.’”

One of the first patients to call him ‘Nurse Baldy’ was Alfred, a critical COVID-19 patient who spent three weeks in the hospital. The two formed a strong bond as Benjamin cared for him when Alfred fought for his life at the height of the pandemic.

Thanks to expert care from his doctors and nurses – like Benjamin – Alfred recovered and could return to his everyday life. As Alfred exited the hospital in a wheelchair in 2020, he was seen giving a thumbs up and waves to Benjamin and the dozens of colleagues who lined the hospital hallways.

“The most prominent emotion was joy,” Benjamin recalled. “Knowing what he had just been through and knowing there were many others still in the midst of their fights, I couldn’t help but also feel hope; hope that families would be reunited, hope that grueling working hours were not in vain, hope that more patients just like Alfred would be leaving soon. I also felt grateful for the opportunity to have been part of Alfred’s journey and care team.”

Since his recovery, Alfred has returned to the Las Vegas hospital to visit Benjamin and pray for the care team who saved his life. “I almost didn’t make it,” Alfred said. “I will never stop praying for all of you. I cannot say thank you enough. You are all a part of my life now because you saved my life.”

“Providing care in someone’s time of need gives me a better sense of purpose and fulfillment in life. I became a nurse ten years after I left the U.S. Army, and it has been a privilege to be in this profession every year since.”

Benjamin Rawcliffe, director of critical care, Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center

Missouri nurse inspired to pursue a career in the emergency department after her father’s passing

Nursing school graduate holding a white coat
RayCi Lee, Emergency Department nurse, HCA Healthcare’s Centerpoint Medical Center

RayCi Lee
Centerpoint Medical Center (Independence, Missouri

HCA Healthcare nurse RayCi Lee grew up in Kansas City and had dreams of becoming a veterinarian after high school. During her college years, she came to realize that her favorite part of veterinary work entailed building rapport with pet owners and making them feel comfortable. After finding her calling to care for and improve human life, RayCi transitioned her career pathway to nursing and enrolled at HCA Healthcare affiliate Research College of Nursing (RCoN).

RayCi’s journey to be a nurse did not come easy. During the summer 2022 semester of nursing school, RayCi tragically lost her father, Raymond. He suffered a stroke, causing his car to crash. And because of pre-existing health conditions, complications during his recovery increased.

Following her father’s passing, RayCi took time off from her nursing program to be with her family. During that time, she reflected on the care her dad and the rest of her family received from his nurses. RayCi especially admired the way the nurses treated her mom. Her father’s nurses prioritized time with her mother to teach her about and thoroughly explain the procedures and processes that took place. “I was blown away by the nurses and how they treated my mom,” RayCi explained. “They were so helpful and so kind. I wanted to be that for others. I hate that it happened, but it made me a better nurse.”

Selfie of a father and his daughter
HCA Healthcare nurse RayCi Lee (right) and her late father, Raymond (left)

With the unwavering support from RayCi’s classmates and the RCoN faculty, she ultimately graduated Magna Cum Laude in December 2022. Today, RayCi credits her dad for the motivation to continue to show up for her patients as she serves them as a nurse in the emergency department at HCA Healthcare’s Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, Missouri. She wants to be the first person patients see when they come into the hospital hurt or in pain. She strives to provide her patients with the same level of comfort that her family received during their darkest hour.

Texas nurse steps up after tragedy to provide comfort outside her hospital’s walls

HCA Healthcare nurse standing in a hospital holding stuffed animals.
Sandra Martinez, Director fo Critical Nursing and Hemodialysis, HCA Healthcare’s Rio Grande Regional Hospital

Sandra Martinez
Rio Grande Regional Hospital (McAllen, Texas)

Helping people is at the core of who Sandra Martinez is as a person and an HCA Healthcare nurse. At a young age, Sandra remembers telling her parents that she wanted to own a bus one day and fill it with doctors and nurses, so they could drive around town and provide medical care to the sick or injured. “Watching my mother care for my grandmother inspired my desire to be a nurse, who could help people through their illnesses,” Sandra said. With 25 years of nursing experience under her belt, she is fulfilling her lifelong dream by helping people in need.

Sandra is not only the director of critical nursing and hemodialysis at Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen, Texas but also a part of the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force (TXEMTF) – a state medical response team activated during disasters.

Soon after joining TXEMTF in 2016, Sandra was deployed to Corpus Christi, Texas for 19 days to assist during Hurricane Harvey. Before the arrival of the category 4 hurricane, Sandra arranged air transport for nursing home patients and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) babies. Soon after the storm made landfall, she and her team set up mobile medical units where the team provided care to thousands of individuals displaced by the hurricane.

Sandra was once again called to action in May 2022. In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas mass school shooting, where nineteen children and two teachers were killed, Sandra was part of a team of nurses deployed to relieve emergency department nurses at Uvalde Memorial Hospital. Those nurses had been working around the clock, providing help and comfort while also grieving.

During her ten days in Uvalde, Sandra witnessed firsthand the unbelievable strength displayed by healthcare professionals who remained focused and committed to helping their community recover.

In support of Uvalde, Sandra and Rio Grande Regional Hospital held a special prayer service where colleagues and community members came together to pay respect to those who lost their lives in the tragedy. Additionally, Sandra helped her hospital in partnering with HCA Healthcare’s sister facility, Valley Regional Medical Center, to hold a plush toy drive for children receiving counseling services in Uvalde. During counseling sessions, each child was given a stuffed toy to help provide comfort as they dealt with the aftermath and their emotions.

Thanks to Sandra’s inspiration and the generosity of numerous colleagues, hundreds of stuffed animals made their way into children’s arms. Sandra is a prime example of a leader and colleague who cares like family and continually shares her time and skills to make a difference beyond her hospital’s walls.

“I want everyone to feel safe, cared for, loved and valued. I want to make a positive impact in people’s lives. My nursing career at HCA Healthcare has given me the opportunity to accomplish these things.”

Sandra Martinez, director of critical nurse and hemodialysis, Rio Grande Regional Hospital

Volunteering helps Texas nurse find his calling

Andrew Delgado wearing scrubs standing in a hospital.
Andrew Delgado, Progressive Surgical Unit Nurse, HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital

Andrew Delgado
Methodist Hospital (San Antonio, Texas)

Andrew Delgado discovered that nursing was his calling while volunteering at HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. “I knew I wanted to join the medical field at an early age, but I wasn’t sure which field,” Andrew explained.

While in high school, Andrew was able to see the many possibilities available within healthcare by joining the Blue Bird Auxiliary – a volunteer group that allows people to interact with patients, families and medical and administrative staff throughout hospital campuses. “After volunteering and seeing loved ones in the hospital, I found that nurses provided the care patients and families really needed.”

Andrew took the lessons he learned in the Blue Bird Auxiliary and went to school to be a registered nurse in the progressive surgical unit at Methodist Hospital doing what he loves: helping people. Now, he wants to pay it forward. This summer, Andrew plans to graduate with his master’s degree in nursing education and help others find their calling.

To help offset some of the cost of continuing his education, Andrew is utilizing HCA Healthcare’s tuition reimbursement benefits. “When the opportunity was presented to advance my education, it was a no-brainer,” Andrew said. He credits being a mentor in his hospital and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Texas Health San Antonio School of Nursing with helping him find his passion for teaching. “Sharing that gift will impact not only my future students but also the patients they will care for. And so, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Nursing Education to influence the future of nursing.”

“Even though a patient is going through a similar surgery or disease process as others I have taken care of, I know that everyone has a different way of learning, recovering and processing their situations. I talk about everything I am doing when I am in the room – from the medications I am administering to a simple dressing change. Treat someone like a human being, not a diagnosis or room number, and they’ll feel the difference in your care.”

Andrew Delgado, progressive surgical unit nurse, Methodist Hospital

Three California nurses take care of patients like family, alongside family

Three sisters who are also nurses standing in a hospital hallway.
HCA Healthcare nurses Sandra, Jennifer and Sharen

The Misa sisters
Riverside Community Hospital (Riverside, California)

Meet the Misa Sisters, who work at Riverside Community Hospital in the Immediate Care Unit. Combined, these three sisters have dedicated nearly 52 years of service to the Riverside, California community, caring like family for those in need.

Sandra, the oldest sister, began working at the hospital in 2003. Jennifer, the middle sister, began her career at Riverside in 2004. And Sharen, the youngest, joined her sisters in 2007.

When asked why all three sisters choose to work at HCA Healthcare, each responded with a similar answer. “Our unit is like a family, and we enjoy working with family – literally. And with the bonds we’ve made with our colleagues, our family has grown.”

Caring for others is a family business for the Misa sisters, as it is for HCA Healthcare. Thank you, Sandra, Jennifer and Sharen for your dedication to our mission: above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human lives.

Mother daughter nursing duo lean on each other during hard times  

Marilyn and Mikayla
St. Mark’s Hospital (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Lakeview Hospital (Bountiful, Utah)  

Two mother daughter pictures side by side taken decades a part.
HCA Healthcare nurses Marilyn Mariani and her daughter Mikayla Allred

Like mother, like daughter. HCA Healthcare nurses Marilyn Mariani and her daughter Mikayla Allred both decided to pursue a career in healthcare after they both were comforted by nurses at young ages themselves.

Today, Mikayla is an ICU nurse at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Marilyn is the chief nursing officer at Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, Utah. As they worked together in HCA Healthcare’s MountainStar Healthcare hospital system during the COVID-19 pandemic, their unique bond and perspectives as mother and daughter made both women better, more resilient professionals who were able to provide better patient care.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, circumstances were scary for us as they were for everyone, especially for healthcare workers. Our 18-bed ICU transformed into a COVID unit,” Mikayla recalls. “Understandably, we were fearful of bringing COVID home to our families.”

This experience was shared by nurses in intensive care units all over the world. Oftentimes, Mikayla says, the best they could offer their patients was helping them say goodbye to family members over Zoom. It was heartbreaking.

While Mikayla struggled to care for people in the ICU, Marilyn struggled to know how best to support her nursing staff.

“Being in leadership, you’re not taking care of patients, you’re taking care of your people, our colleagues. Having my daughter in the depths of it, hearing what she was going through…she helped me understand the emotional intensity associated with direct patient care at the time. Because of this, I was better able to empathize with my nurses.”

After every shift, Mikayla called her mom. It was a much needed opportunity to unpack her emotions, cry, and get some motherly encouragement.

“Mom kept telling me to remember the happiness of the job before the pandemic, to remember the joy,” the ICU nurse explained.

Their passion for and commitment to loving and caring for people was ultimately what the two women hung on to throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; that’s what got them through two difficult years of their careers.

To Marilyn, Mikayla and all of our nurses, we offer heartfelt thanks this Nurses Week and always for the many ways you live out our mission every day. You are the heart of healthcare, and our commitment to supporting you at HCA Healthcare has never been stronger. Happy Nurses Week to all of our nurse colleagues!


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