The facility “went from losing money to being in the black,” Margaret Lewis, president of the HCA Capital Division, says about the 2011 downturn that was resolved by 2012.
“And he did that while maintaining its high quality scores,” she says.
For his achievements, Nichols is being recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the Up & Comers of 2012.
Lewis, who has worked with Nichols for eight years, specifically credited Nichols' development of an expense management plan that identified a range of cuts at the hospital and his efforts to restructure it to meet the areas evolving demand for different healthcare services.
But also critical, she says, was Nichols' skill in assembling teams of professionals with diverse skill sets and trusting them to reach the goals he lays out.
“I believe in surrounding yourself with quality personnel and then getting out of their way to let them work,” Nichols says.
Nichols says that kind of big-picture approach to hospital management was inspired by a trip years earlier to a top-ranked New Orleans restaurant. When Nichols began to ask for a specific change to his order, the server interrupted him to assure Nichols that there was very little they wouldn't do to make his visit a pleasant experience.
“Obviously, that was someone who worked for a leader who said, 'Here's the vision, now let me get out of the way and let you get it done,' ” Nichols says.