Carol Hulgan flat out loves Disney World. And it loves her back.
In fact, when she leaves long-term care, she has “every intention” of becoming a nurse at a Disney amusement park.
A park manager even tried recruiting her after she tended to a fellow park-goer who had a seizure during a visit to Hollywood Studios.
But Hulgan’s not exactly looking for a Fast Pass that cuts the line for retirement.
After more than 21 years at Life Care, she feels she still has too much to do on behalf of the patients and nurses who staff the company’s 208 locations. In her current role, she oversees 10 clinical directors at the chain’s corporate offices in Tennessee and 97 clinical associates across eight U.S. divisions.
On a given day, she’s fielding phone calls from both coasts, starting during her 7 a.m. drive to the office.
When there’s a crisis, it’s Hulgan offering moral support and expert clinical guidance or making arrangements for equipment and reinforcements. She has helped physically evacuate facilities in South Carolina and Texas in advance of major flooding; hunkered down with Florida residents and staff during hurricanes; and tried to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington earlier this year.
“We go where we’re needed when there’s a crisis,” Hulgan says. “I always think about the patients first, but in ensuring the patients are taken care of, we must also ensure our own associates are taken care of … We can’t forget about them.”
Her path to nursing was paved by Margie Mills, the owner of a home health company where Hulgan was once a receptionist. Mills paid for Hulgan to attend nursing school, allowing her to envision a life as a frontline caregiver.
Hulgan initially worked as a cardiac nurse at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN. But within two years of earning her registered nursing degree, she was back at Life Care — the same company where she first worked as a candy striper at the age of 13.
Hulgan’s husband, Darren, understands her drive and commitment. He is a traveling interim director. The two are high school sweethearts who married in their teens and had children before starting careers dedicated to caring for seniors.
“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.”
Now 53, Carol Hulgan is a grandmother of four who enjoys sharing her fondness for Disney World with her family at least twice a year. (She is also passionate about Stephen King and her Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy collectibles.)
“We drive down two or three times a year from Tennessee,” she explains. “Every time, we’re the first ones in and the last ones out.”
Resume: 1995, Earns associate’s degree in nursing from Chattanooga State Community College; 1999–2004, Hired as ADON, then promoted to DON and MDS director for Life Care Centers of America; 2004, Becomes a legal nurse consultant; 2006, Named director of event management; 2008, Promoted to SVP, Home Health & Hospice; 2011, Appointed SVP, Clinical Services; 2013, Becomes clinical litigation specialist; 2017, Returns as SVP, Clinical Services