By Dr. Tonia Hale
Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital
I’m delighted to be here at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital (BRRH), and to get to know our committed teams across every department and this community. I arrived at BRRH just a few weeks ago, on December 16th, and it has been a whirlwind of learning and orientation, but a very positive experience.
I wanted to introduce myself to the community through this, the first of my CEO monthly columns. I grew up in Morristown, Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains and have maintained a residence there my entire life. I love working in the rural healthcare setting as well as in the mountains.
In 1990, I experienced a life-changing event when a medication error contributed to my 14-year old brother’s death. From that moment on, I have dedicated my entire career to improving quality and ensuring patient safety. I am very passionate about helping others. My areas of expertise include mentoring leaders and patient experience. I am a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Coach, a certification that enhanced my motivational speaking and coaching skills. Two memorable speaking events this past year were presenting at the National Opal Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Summit on how to improve patient experience and serving as the guest speaker at the 57th Walters State Community College commencement and nursing pinning ceremony in December, 2019. I was honored to be the first nursing alumni speaker to present at their first-ever combined graduation and pinning ceremony.
I’ve worked in many capacities in the healthcare industry over my 33-year career and I’ve served mostly in Tennessee, as well as Virginia and West Virginia. I worked as a pharmacy technician for several years while I was pursing my nursing degree. In 1994, my nursing career started at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System (MHHS) as a critical care nurse. I later as an Administrative House Supervisor. My first nursing leadership position was in 2002 as the Director of Women’s and Children’s Services, where I was responsible for two Medical-Surgical units, Pediatrics, Labor and Delivery, Nursery, and a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My last role at MHHS was as the Director of Quality and Risk Management. This work involved constantly working to improve our hospital’s safety, quality, and efficiency, to afford our patients the best experience possible. I loved the work because it required problem solving skills, the ability to collaborate on projects, and skill in working with measurable data; it was rewarding to see results as we put new strategies into place.
I have been a Chief Nursing Executive (CNE) since 2007 and have worked for the same system, Tennova Healthcare, in four hospitals, with the majority being rural ones with less than 135 beds. From June, 2015 to March, 2017, I worked at a 250-bed hospital in Danville, VA which was a Duke-affiliated hospital with an extensive focus on quality, and a 135-bed hospital in Ronceverte, WV which worked closely with medical residents. These positions allowed me to gain knowledge and expertise in various hospital environments, and gave me a very well-rounded operational background. As CNE, I represented the nursing staff in each organization and encouraged them to practice to the fullest extent of their licenses.
Being a member of the Tennessee Nurses Association since 2014, it is important to me that nursing leaders work to ensure that nurses have a voice in how care is managed and patients are treated. I am also a strong advocate for educational advancement and believe that associates should pursue their career goals. I enjoy working with administrative interns to help them gain experience in healthcare and serve as their mentor as they embark on their career paths.
I come to BRRH from Tennova Newport Medical Center in Newport, Tennessee, where I served as CNE and lead various hospital-wide clinical operations, including nursing, radiology, respiratory, pharmacy, laboratory, physical therapy, and nursing home. I had responsibility for the administrative generalist that worked closely with the employed providers in the clinics. I also worked in collaboration with the EMS liaison and the local EMS departments to ensure optimal access to care for the community.
I got my associate’s degree in nursing from Walters State Community College, my bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, my Master of Arts in Organizational Management from Tusculum University, and Doctor of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership from East Tennessee State University.
I believe my formal education and my work experience gained at each organization has prepared me for my newest exciting role as CEO here at BRRH. I’m thrilled to be here, to get to know this community, and to work to make BRRH the best it can be – now and for the future.
Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. Hale is a proven leader with more than 32 years of progressive healthcare experience. A native of East Tennessee, she holds an associate’s degree in nursing from Walters State Community College, a baccalaureate degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree in organizational management from Tusculum University, and a doctor of nursing practice degree in executive leadership from East Tennessee State University. Ms. Hale is currently a resident of Burnsville.