Editor’s Note: We are profiling the McKnight’s 2020 Women of Distinction honorees daily through the program’s July 28 online awards ceremony. To learn more about this digital celebration, the Forum the next day (which offers three free continuing education credits July 29) and the program in general, visit mcknightswomenofdistinction.com.

Carol Hulgan can safely be described as leading with heart.

The one-time cardiac nurse currently is the top clinical officer at Life Care Centers of America. She has spent 21 years at the provider chain, first as an assistant director of nursing at a facility and now as the top executive overseeing clinical operations at its 208 locations. 

She manages 10 clinical directors at headquarters, 97 clinical associates across eight divisions and, by extension, approximately 8,000 clinical associates.

Her ties to Life Care actually began 40 years ago, when she volunteered as a 13-year-old “candy striper.” Not long after she graduated from Chattanooga State Community College, she started a string of posts that would include corporate legal consultant, minimum data set coordinator and senior vice president of Life Care’s former home healthcare and hospice company. 

Hulgan is known to field calls from all the U.S. continental time zones before noon. Colleagues know her as a clinical expert who freely offers moral support as well as tactical guidance and backup on arrangements for equipment or reinforcements. 

Based in Tennessee, she personally has helped evacuate facilities in South Carolina and Texas in advance of major flooding; hunkered down with Florida residents and staff members during hurricanes; and tried to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington earlier this year.

Her path to nursing was paved by Margie Mills, the owner of a home health company where Hulgan once was a receptionist. Mills paid for Hulgan to attend nursing school, which first landed her a position as a hospital cardiac care nurse.

“Carol Hulgan is the best example you will ever meet of a servant leader,” Life Care President Beecher Hunter proudly says. “She truly leads by example, and there is nothing she will not do for her team. Her motivation is simple: to love those she serves and those she leads.”

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare. Silver sponsors are OnShift and PharMerica, and the Signature sponsor is Acadia Pharmaceuticals.