Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
Weekend edition October 06, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Covenant Health female executives nationally recognized for clinical leadership 

As female leaders, Covenant Health's Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer know they have an important role in inspiring the next generation of healthcare workers.

Covenant Health pledges to be the “first and best choice for healthcare.” That’s demonstrated not just by staff at the bedside, but by the medical executive leaders who aren’t afraid to put on their scrubs.

Two of those leaders, Mandy Halford, MD, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), and Debbi Honey, RN, Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) have been nationally recognized for their clinical leadership.

It’s this willingness to put in the work and love for what they do that landed both women on the 2023 Becker’s Hospital Review list of top CMOs and CNOs to know. Becker’s Hospital Review is a leading online hospital publication for healthcare business news and analysis for hospital and healthcare system executives. It features up-to-date business and legal news and analysis relating to hospitals and health systems.

“I’ve been a nurse for a very long time, and this is the fourth CNO position that I’ve held,” said Honey. “If a patient needs to be taken to the bathroom, I will do that. I’ve never asked anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do, which I think is important in our roles.”

“I think we both believe leading by example is important to success,” said Halford, whose background is in hospital medicine and hospice. “I think the other thing we both believe is that it takes a team. It’s not about one person in healthcare, it’s about keeping our patients first with a multidisciplinary team surrounding them. So it’s very important for us to be physically present and supportive of all of our team members.”

Covenant Health is the only hospital system in East Tennessee to have both their CMO and CNO named to their respective lists.

“It’s humbling,” said Halford. “I think what resonates with me is because East Tennessee is my home, and I’m very passionate about delivering quality care in this region. To know that Covenant Health is being recognized nationally for keeping our patients in the center of all we do and that we’re trying to improve healthcare across the region is what’s really special to me.”

Halford, who also serves as Covenant’s Chief Medical Informatics Officer, was just named CMO in June 2023. Honey has served as CNO for six years, and this is her second year in a row to be named to the Becker’s Hospital Review list. She said what’s special to her about this ranking is sharing the recognition with other CNOs she knows across the country.

“I know at least half of the people on this list, or I’ve seen them at national meetings or have crossed paths with them in my career,” said Honey. “So it’s very humbling to be named to such a group, and I really do appreciate the recognition.”

These women are a decorated duo when it comes to awarding their work in the healthcare sector. Just last week, Halford was chosen as the 2023 YWCA of Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley Tribute to Women Honoree in the Science, Health, and Technology category. But at a time when the medical field is seeing a shortage of workers, it’s not the awards that keep Honey and Halford coming back each day.

“Some people will say that nursing is a “job”. I have never said nursing is a job. It’s absolutely my passion, it’s my profession, and I’m not ready to leave what I love,” said Honey. “I went through the AIDS crisis, I went through Ebola, then COVID, and it was tough. But I’m not ready to leave yet.”

It’s that passion that helps both women look for solutions to staffing shortages, seeing how they can adjust old ways of working in a hospital to fit a new generation.

Telehealth on-demand 24/7 access to nurses is currently available in Covenant Health’s critical care units, and utilizing this technology is something the hospital system has implemented to train young nurses.

“How do we capture back that critical thinking and that expertise to help our younger nurses? There are mechanisms where an experienced nurse can go into a patient’s room via a device, be it an iPad or Smart TV, and, and help a new nurse through procedures, through working with patients,” said Honey.

Covenant Health is always looking for ways to move forward. Halford and Honey will be in the hospital this weekend launching a new electronic medical record system, working with staff on the floor over the next several weeks to get everything up and running in one of the system’s member hospitals.

As female leaders, Honey and Halford know they have an important role in inspiring the next generation of healthcare workers. Honey said around 85 percent of nurses are women, so it’s important for them to see another woman advocating for them in a leadership role. Demographics are shifting among physicians.

“When I started my career, there really was a higher percentage of male physicians who dominated the medical field,” said Halford. “Now there are more females in the field, and I think we need both. We need men and women at the table. Female characteristics can be seen through empathetic leadership and understanding how to support our employees for work-life balance. I think those skill sets shine through as you have female leaders at the table. But it’s important to learn how to mentor all future healthcare leaders.”

Halford and Honey will continue to serve patients and lead healthcare delivery at all Covenant Health hospitals across East Tennessee. It’s important to them that patients receive excellent care regardless of which location they visit because, at the end of the day, these women love their jobs and are nationally recognized because they care for people.

“We truly believe in our Covenant Health Pledge of Excellence,” said Halford. “We put our patients first. We believe in excellence in everything that we do and in doing our part to make Covenant Health the  first and best choice. These are our friends. They’re our neighbors. They’re our community members. We want to treat all of them with love and respect and care for them. I think that’s what makes us different.”

Like what you've read?

Forward to a friend!

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!