From her firm handshake to her commanding voice, you
need not see a title on her chest to deduce that Elaine
Hastings is "The Boss." As Hilton Head Hospital's chief
nursing officer, she doesn't mince words. "I'm not mean.
I'm just very resolute," she said. "I talk loud, because I'm from
Chicago and that's how we talk. And I'm very dogmatic about the
things I have to do."
You may be thinking that Elaine comes on strong. She does, but
her big-city bravado is tempered by a sassy sense of humor that
endears her to those who report to her as well as those who rely on
her care. "My box is the biggest. It's a standing joke," she said. "But
the truth is my box can't stay where it is unless everyone else stays."
It's one thing to be top dog, but it's another to be a servant
leader, which Elaine believes is the key to earning the respect of
her co-workers. "I'm passionate about what I believe in, and I'm
very hands-on," she said. "If I'm making rounds and a call light
comes on, I respond. I may be the CNO, but I can go in that
room, find out what is needed and take care of it. If you have a
complaint, call me directly."
It was just such spirit (along with a touch of teenage rebellion)
that drove Elaine to nursing in the first place. In spite of the fact
that her mother was a nurse, she hadn't planned to follow in her
footsteps. But at age 15, when her mother was sick and had to be
taken to the emergency room, Elaine was not allowed to be with
her. "They wouldn't let you go back unless you were a nurse," she
explained. "I decided then that I was going to nursing school so
that my family would be taken care of and so that nobody would
ever be alone."
Today, Elaine holds a master's degree in nursing from DePaul
University. She came to Hilton Head Hospital in 2006 with 30
years experience, including her latest position at Sherman Health
Systems, where she served as chief nursing officer from 2000 to
2005-the year when her sister, Katherine, was diagnosed with
terminal cancer. Having lost another sister 10 years earlier, Elaine
made the bold decision to quit her job and go live with Kathy,
caring for her until her death. Describing the experience as the
greatest in her life, "the saddest and the happiest," Elaine said,
"She gave me such a gift. She made me brave to try new things,"
including a move to a new community and a new way of life.
"For me, this was a huge leap," said Elaine of her southern
migration. Having never lived outside of Chicago, she had never
vacationed here or even heard of Hilton Head Island. "When
I got here, I realized this was the place I was meant to be. The
community is what made me stay [the hospital staff as well as the
community as a whole]."
Although losing a loved one is not an experience Elaine cares to
repeat, the lessons she took away are invaluable. "I can't afford to
be in a place where I'm not happy or where I don't feel I can make
a difference," she said. "Tomorrow I might get hit by a semi truck
and be dead. That's what I learned from my sister. You have to let
go of your breath. You have to live your life like things are going
to work out for you."
And so she does. "Every day, I have to believe that something
happened to make the day good. It doesn't take much. If the Coke
is cold, if it doesn't rain on my hair.it's a good day!"
Family: husband, Pat; son, Patrick, 26; daughter, Allison, 25; canine companions, Clyde, Dude and Elvis
Greatest strength: the ability to adjust herapproach
Greatest weakness: lack of patience. "I'm a fixer. Iwant it done now."
Religious affiliation: "I've tried them all. My kids call
me a 'Cabaptabuddahjew.'"
In her spare time find her: attempting to learn golf fromher husband or taking trips with her closest girlfriends.
Best thing about living in the south: driving a convertible.