Nina Willingham, senior executive director at Life Care Center of Sarasota, accepting the Walter M. Johnson Jr. Circle of Excellence Award

The Florida Health Care Association recently honored Nina Willingham, senior executive director at Life Care Center of Sarasota, with its highest achievement, the Walter M. Johnson Jr. Circle of Excellence Award.


The award was presented on Aug. 5, 2015, during FHCA’s Annual Conference in Orlando. Willingham was recognized for her leadership in FHCA, her commitment to providing quality care to residents and her dedication in creating a quality workplace for her staff.


“I was very honored to be recognized,” said Willingham. “There is a scripture in Luke that says, ‘For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.’ I have always focused on ways to minister to others the way I have been ministered to in my life.”


“Willingham has been a champion and leader in performance excellence,” the FHCA said in a press release. “She is a constant advocate for quality care and a catalyst for making Florida’s long-term care providers more proactive in seeking opportunities for continuous quality improvement. Willingham is known for initiating practices that contribute to a positive and productive workplace, which in turn results in exceptional care.”


Under Willingham’s leadership, Life Care Center of Sarasota has won numerous state and national awards acknowledging its success in quality care. Many of the programs Willingham has developed to enhance resident care have been implemented by other facilities, including the Butterflies Are Free end-of-life program, which many Life Care centers use.


Willingham has also played a significant role in helping Florida facilities with the process of qualifying for the American Health Care Association/ National Center for Assisted Living’s National Quality Awards. Florida now leads the country with more National Quality Awards than any other state. In addition, Life Care Center of Sarasota was the first center in Florida to take home the coveted Gold Award, showing superior performance in areas of the criteria including leadership, strategic planning and customer and staff satisfaction.


“Nina’s extraordinary professional talents are only exceeded by her heart for people,” said Beecher Hunter, Life Care president. “She is a treasure for our company, for the Florida Health Care Association and for any organization she believes in and joins.”


Emmett Reed, FHCA executive director, added: “Nina Willingham is a true reflection of what it means to lead with a servant’s heart, and her center and the association have reaped the benefits – and residents of long-term care centers around our state are better for her service.”


Willingham is also a recognized leader with Florida Health Care Association. She served in various district, regional and committee positions before being elected FHCA president from 2010-2012 and then president of the FHCA Quality Foundation from 2012-2014.


“I have been active in the association for more than 25 years, and in the beginning, it felt like I received more than I gave,” said Willingham. “The Florida Health Care Association has provided great programs, education and service opportunities that have helped me be a better administrator than I would have been without that affiliation.”


“I have been so abundantly blessed because of my involvement with the association,” she added. “My work with FHCA is my way of giving back.”


The Walter M. Johnson Jr. Circle of Excellence Award was initiated in 1972 in honor of a man significant in the FHCA’s establishment. Johnson served as president of FHCA from 1969-71, and, under his leadership, association membership grew rapidly. He was instrumental in establishing an effective committee system for legislative, reimbursement and regulatory issues.


The FHCA is Florida’s first and largest advocacy organization for long-term care providers and the elderly they serve.

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