Lori Hamilton, RN, C. is Director of Healthy Initiatives and the resident nurse for K-VA-T Food Stores Inc., parent company to the grocery store chain, Food City. With over 134 stores spanning regions in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and Georgia, it is no small feat for Lori to oversee the health and wellness of all 16,000 K-VA-T associates whom she affectionately calls her "patients". Lori also manages the Healthy Initiatives team and works with marketing and other store departments to develop and implement wellness programs for associates and customers and form partnerships with local organizations for events and promotions. Lori has been working with Food City for seven years and as a registered nurse for 30+ years. She is well-known in the medical community as a health resource and advocate.
Lori Hamilton, RN, C.
1. Professional Development: Lori earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from East Tennessee State University. She currently holds certification in ambulatory women’s health care. Prior to Food City, Lori worked for Mountain States Health Alliance, in which her clinical experience included Women’s Health, Medical Surgical Nursing and Labor/Delivery. In this role, she opened/managed the Health Resources Center in Johnson City, Tennessee. Lori volunteers with the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Diabetes Association. She currently serves as Co-Chair of Population Health & Healthy Communities and Chair of the Health and Wellness Subgroup of Food Marketing Institute.
2. Demonstrated Success: Lori was hired by Food City to develop and implement a wellness program for associates and initiate programming that supports health in stores for customer engagement. In our region, obesity and diabetes are rampant and many Food City associates and customers struggle with these diseases among others. Lori’s goal was to provide resources to empower associates and customers to make better decisions that, in turn, change behavior. Lori has achieved this goal by developing a diabetes program for associates that includes one-on-one counseling and incentives for completing required and recommended screenings and laboratory tests. As a result of her efforts and the support of Human Resources, 35% of Food City associates with diabetes are currently engaged in the diabetes program. The associates now have the support and information they need to better manage diabetes and co-occurring conditions.
Lori also promotes a holistic view of health including wellness of mind, body, and spirit. Many times, mental and emotional health is overlooked and discussion is avoided. Lori makes herself available for all Food City associates to help them find resources and improve in all areas of health. As a direct subordinate of Lori, I can attest to her caring and compassionate nature. She understands people and genuinely works to help them succeed. In our company and community, everyone knows “Nurse Lori”. This type of “fame” and likeable personality, is something that is difficult to teach, but Lori cares without trying, because it is just who she is. In our business, we are “selling” health, which can be hard to measure. As our CEO, Steve Smith, once said, our success is measured by “how much noise we are making”. Lori has made lots of noise in our community and as a result is well-respected and viewed as a vital resource for health promotion in our region.
Lori utilizes all seven of WELCOA’s benchmarks in program development and implementation. She works well with others including upper management and obtains CEO support and input in all programs through monthly staff meetings and updates. She creates cohesive teams that play off the strengths of individuals and departments and also holds focus groups to determine if programs will be a worthwhile investment in our population. She is research-focused and collects current data to drive her programs, often sending this data to associates as well. Lori always has a strategic plan and constantly thinks of the future by having monthly planning meetings with her staff. She chooses appropriate interventions that meet the individual or group where they are to provide realistic and attainable goals. She also creates a supportive environment by having an “open-door” policy that allows associates to contact her when needed. Lastly, Lori evaluates outcomes by keeping data on the number of associates who participate in various programs in order to streamline the process and continually provide meaningful programs.
3. Leadership: Lori is a leader and role model in our company and community for health and wellness. She “walks the talk” by doing the things that she asks others to do such as getting recommended health screenings, getting her flu shot, exercising regularly, and eating nutritious foods frequently and all foods in moderation. I think the reason that Lori is such a good leader is that she puts herself at the level of the associate and engages them where they are. She has a very moderate approach to lifestyle change – not requiring huge shifts or habit changes, but by initiating small steps. She is also very encouraging and understanding. She is the type of person that never has to demand that others follow, because others want to follow her and make her proud.
4. Innovation: Lori’s role as a nurse in the business / retail environment is new and is a more non-traditional role for an RN. Lori built her position and sort of wrote her own job description when starting at Food City because there was no precedent for her role. She was able to do this by gathering research and resources and keeping a big picture mindset. Lori is able to tie her previous experiences in the clinical field and marketing environment to her current position in wellness promotion in the retail space in order to make all pieces of the puzzle fit. Lori’s efforts have initiated changes in health status improvement, behavior change, and culture change at Food City. Although I do not have specific numbers to report, the culture change in our work environment is obvious. Lori’s constant encouragement and support is a big reason why I took my job with Food City and is probably the top reason for my continued job satisfaction.
5. Compelling Vision: Lori’s future areas of interest include disease prevention and holistic wellness. Lori believes that until we focus our efforts on the person as a whole, it will be extremely difficult to achieve lasting behavior change and make an impact on the overall health of the population. Lori plans to continue to fine tune and develop the role of a nurse in the business / retail environment. She also manages a registered dietitian as a part of the Healthy Initiatives team which provides many opportunities for growth. There are additional opportunities for partnership as well with local organizations, businesses, universities, and groups to make an even bigger impact on the community.