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Prioritizing mental health for HCA Healthcare colleagues, patients and communities

As HCA Healthcare recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month this May, learn how we’re supporting the mental well-being of our colleagues, patients and the communities where we serve.

Caring for our colleagues

At HCA Healthcare, we believe excellent people make excellence happen. That’s why we provide our more than 309,000 colleagues with programs, benefits and resources designed to support their overall well-being, and strive to foster a culture of inclusion that allows colleagues to thrive.

One Mind at Work’s Salus Award for workplace mental health

HCA Healthcare colleague Ryan Sledge accepts a 2024 Salus Award for exemplary efforts in workforce mental health.
HCA Healthcare Vice President of Workforce Health and Safety Ryan Sledge (right) recently accepted a 2024 Salus Award for exemplary efforts in workforce mental health. Pictured with One Mind at Work Chairman and Founder Garen Staglin (left).

In May, HCA Healthcare was recognized by One Mind at Work with a 2024 Salus Award, named after the Roman goddess of safety and well-being, for exemplary efforts in workforce mental health. HCA Healthcare is a Founding Corporate Partner of the Mental Health at Work Index – which was created by One Mind at Work, Columbia University Mental Health + Work Design Lab and Ethisphere.

In preliminary results of the Index that was launched to the public in May 2023, HCA Healthcare scored above target in all categories, especially for the mental health resources we provide to all colleagues, such as Nurse Care and Optum Behavioral Health.

“The results that we’ve gotten back from the Index helped us bolster some of the things we already do internally, such as our Mental Health and Wellness Colleague Network, which is the fastest-growing network across the organization,” shared Ryan Sledge, vice president of workforce health and safety at HCA Healthcare. “The assessment provided us with an opportunity to do more and do better as an employer and as a healthcare system.”

Mental Health and Wellness Colleague Network

Since launching HCA Healthcare’s Colleague Networks program in 2021, our colleague-led, self-directed, voluntary networks have helped strengthen our culture of belonging by facilitating connection, collaboration and celebration among colleagues. The Mental Health and Wellness Colleague Network is one of nine groups and provides our colleagues with a safe community and supportive network to come together to learn and talk, in this case about mental and emotional health. The network strives to reduce the stigma and stereotypes often associated with mental health and promote awareness, hope, acceptance and individual empowerment.

Nurse Care

Nursing is often a very rewarding profession, yet also extremely challenging. In recent years, the industry-wide nursing shortage, pandemic and other headwinds have impacted nurse mental health in ways never seen before. At HCA Healthcare, nurses lead the way for care excellence across our organization, and we are committed to supporting their health and well-being in many ways, including through our Nurse Care program.

Our full-time and part-time hospital-based nurses have specialized support services available through Nurse Care, a confidential 24/7 helpline that connects nurses to a master’s level professional specifically trained in the unique needs of caregivers. There is no cost to HCA Healthcare nurses to use unlimited Nurse Care services. The administration of Nurse Care transitioned to Optum in 2023, and nurses can now find online support in addition to the helpline.

Optum Wellbeing

Through our partnership with Optum, colleagues and members of their immediate household may receive up to eight free counseling sessions per topic each year. Therapists are available to discuss stress and anxiety, drug or alcohol use, grief, divorce, financial concerns and other topics in person, via phone or through text. Optum also offers free Wellbeing Wednesday webinars and a free WorkLife referral service to help colleagues find local resources like child, elder and pet care as well as adoption support, education resources and transportation services.

The Wellbeing Hub, a one-stop website where colleagues can find all of the support resources available to them, had more than 51,000 visitors in 2023.

Health Workforce Well-Being Day

In March, HCA Healthcare recognized the inaugural Health Workforce Well-Being Day, which was established by the National Academy of Medicine Collaborative and founding partners – including the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation.

To recognize the importance of protecting health workers’ well-being to sustain our health system and ensure quality patient care around this day of awareness, HCA Healthcare hosted a BRAVE Conversation available to colleagues across the organization on the topic of well-being in the workforce. Launched in 2018, BRAVE Conversations is an award-winning program that offers our colleagues a space to have a conversation about complex and challenging topics that are Bold, Relevant, Authentic, Valuable and Educational.

“As a psychiatric nurse with over 25 years of experience, I know how important mental wellness is for both our patients and our colleagues,” shared Dr. Amy Rushton, vice president of behavioral health at HCA Healthcare and chair of the Mental Health and Wellness Colleague Network. “The day of awareness is a time to remind yourself that the only way you can care for others is to care for yourself.” 

Physician Wellness Research Lab

One way we’re extending our commitment to colleague well-being beyond competitive benefits and a care-first culture is through our Physician Wellness Research Lab, developed in partnership with Claremont Graduate University. Colleagues in our Physician Wellness Research Lab work alongside a team of organizational psychologists and researchers to understand and improve the health and well-being of physicians and healthcare teams.

Dr. Greg Guldner is a nationally recognized leader in well-being and one of the architects of the Physician Wellness Research Lab. Dr. Guldner is also the vice president of academic affairs for HCA Healthcare’s Graduate Medication Education program. “The research expertise and positive organizational psychology insights provided by the wellness research lab combined with the robust scale of our GME program allows for unparalleled research and growth opportunities,” Dr. Guldner shared. “Together, we will be able to help create and foster a future with a focus on mental well-being for those who have dedicated themselves to the care and improvement of human life.”

The lab has conducted three year-long studies of HCA Healthcare residents with a focus on variables such as psychological capital, meaning in work, autonomy supportive leadership, burnout and depression. The Physician Wellness Research Lab aims to provide resources to increase help-seeking among resident physicians.

Caring for our patients

With more our 186 hospitals supported by approximately 2,400 ambulatory sites of care in 20 states and the United Kingdom, HCA Healthcare is a leader in behavioral health. We leverage the knowledge and data from more than 270,000 annual behavioral health patient encounters to support our care teams – including psychiatrists, nurses, advanced practice nurses, therapists and mental health technicians  – in making positive advances in patient care.

HCA Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Services team provides a purpose-driven network of inpatient, outpatient, pediatric, adult, geriatric and specialty services to meet the unique behavioral health needs of each patient. With 58 inpatient facilities and more than 200 outpatient programs across 17 states, we are proud to have one of the country’s most connected networks of behavioral health treatment centers.

“Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year, and recognizing the critical link between physical and mental well-being is key to normalizing discussion around mental health,” said Eric H. Paul, president of Behavioral Health Services at HCA Healthcare. “It is our job to provide high-quality care for our patients and show them that they are not alone in their journey.”

Therapy animals provide comfort for patients

Posey, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s four-legged therapy dog, provides comfort to a young HCA Healthcare patient.

The cold nose and warm heart of Posey is a bright light for patients at HCA Healthcare’s Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver. She is one of the many therapy animals across our organization known as a four-legged healer. Posey knows over 40 commands and can pull toy wagons, push drawers closed and retrieve all kinds of items. Most importantly, she interacts with our pediatric patients in a calming way to encourage them throughout their medical journey.

These pet therapy programs are highly beneficial for patients, but we also recognize that these therapy experiences can be just as beneficial for our colleagues.

Caring for our communities

At HCA Healthcare, we are committed to breaking down barriers and stigma associated with mental health by teaming up with several community and strategic partners.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 6 U.S. youth (ages 6 to 17) experience a mental health disorder each year. That is why we have collaborated with EVERFI by Blackbaud (EVERFI) and the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) to empower youth to normalize conversations surrounding mental wellness and develop skills to take care of themselves and others.


In 2020, HCA Healthcare and EVERFI came together to make an impact in the mental wellness education space for middle and high school students. Through the course, Understanding Mental Wellness, as well as other community education events, EVERFI aims to encourage students to identify mental health challenges and help others in need.

Since its inception in 2020, the program has reached more than 219,000 students nationwide. Nearly 3,000 teachers have used the program to teach students essential skills to identify their emotions and ask for help.

Girl Scouts of the USA

In 2023, the HCA Healthcare Foundation and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) launched a new Mental Wellness Patch Program for girls in grades 4-12 that includes:

  • Knowing My Emotions for Junior Girl Scouts (grades 4-5)
  • Finding My Voice for Cadette Girl Scouts (grades 6-8)
  • Showing Up for Me and You for Senior/Ambassador Girl Scouts (grades 9-12)

The GSUSA Mental Wellness patch programs, developed in partnership with NAMI and the GSUSA Program Advisory Committee, including HCA Healthcare behavioral health experts, are currently available to all councils nationwide.

With this program, girls and their caregivers have the opportunity to learn about different mental health conditions, how to identify stressful situations, different types of self-care, developing coping skills, using kind and inclusive language and how to ask for help when they or others need it. Through this patch program, we are instilling confidence in these girls and fostering strength and hope. Over 16,000 patches have been earned to date.

Explore free Girl Scouts Mental Wellness activities and unlock a special patch today!


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