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Hillcrest Healthcare and South College celebrate first healthcare graduate from educational partnership

April 21, 2023

Hillcrest Healthcare and South College celebrated the first graduate from their new educational partnership in Tisha Dugger, who advanced from a certified nursing assistant to a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Hillcrest Healthcare and South College celebrate the first healthcare graduate from their new educational partnership with a community gathering and presentation of a personalized engraved stethoscope. Ceremony participants, from left: Ben Landers, South College director of career and alumni services; Bill and Janet Mason; Neil Heatherly, South College vice president of healthcare strategies; Tisha Dugger, LPN; Barry Davis, Hillcrest Healthcare president and CEO; Kim Mountz, Hillcrest Healthcare vice president of clinical services; Doug Bryant, Hillcrest Healthcare senior vice president of learning, diversity and talent; Lavonda Cantrell, Hillcrest Healthcare vice president of marketing and communities; Brandi Miller, Hillcrest Healthcare regional staff development educator; and Diana Fisher, Hillcrest Healthcare senior vice president of strategy and business operations.

Dugger started her new role Dec. 18, 2022, and Hillcrest celebrated her achievement with a community gathering on April 21 and the presentation of a personalized engraved stethoscope.

“I am thankful that Hillcrest Healthcare supports me pursuing my career goals,” Dugger said. “I love my residents and the people I work alongside. I am eager to apply all that I have learned from this amazing program as I move further up in my field.”

Funded by Hillcrest Healthcare, which operates three skilled nursing, rehabilitation and long-term care communities in Knoxville, and a generous institutional grant provided by South College, employees and their dependents who are interested in pursuing a degree in healthcare are offered tuition reimbursement. Aimed at easing the shortage of medical staff in the community, the partnership encourages Hillcrest Healthcare employees to take advantage of professional certifications to advance their careers.

“Our partnership with South College is one of the many employee development programs Hillcrest Healthcare offers to encourage and support training and career growth,” said Doug Bryant, director of human resources, diversity and inclusion. “Since the program began in 2021, we have had multiple staff members enroll and help contribute to the crucial, ever-growing need in the healthcare industry.”

Tisha Dugger presented with a personalized engraved stethoscope.

Dugger joined Hillcrest Healthcare in 2019 as a housekeeper and worked her way up to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the West Hills community. When the opportunity to expand her healthcare career was offered, Dugger enrolled in the program.

Hillcrest Healthcare employees must complete six months of work to be eligible to enroll. Employees do not need medical training but must have a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma such as a GED.

“A partnership with Hillcrest Healthcare to help with practical nurse education is beneficial for our community,” South College Chancellor Stephen A. South said. “Together we are committed to assisting their employees with professional development. Our faculty has built a reputation for creating a great learning experience. These students will have a chance to work with some great instructors and complete a high-quality education.”

Hillcrest Healthcare also offers additional employee development programs, including free in-house cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications and re-certifications, IV certifications for LPNs, specialized training in programs of distinction, learning partnerships with local health systems, CNA program, free certifications and continuing education.

The healthcare company provides benefits, including paid vacation and sick time, immersive onboarding, industry-leading employer match for 403(b) retirement plan, employee assistance program (EAP), employee discount program and a commitment to provide benefits desired by associates.

About Hillcrest Healthcare Communities, Inc.

Hillcrest Healthcare Communities, Inc. operates three skilled nursing, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities in Knoxville, Tennessee. With 560 beds and more than 500 employees, Hillcrest Healthcare is the largest provider of skilled nursing care in Knoxville, with locations in the north, south and west communities. Chartered in 1960 as a 501(c)(3) organization, Hillcrest Healthcare continues its original charitable mission to provide long-term care and skilled nursing home beds to the citizens of Knox and surrounding counties. For more information,