Owner, Serenity First Hospice, Richmond
Deborah Johnston’s father inspired her career path. When she was a child, he encouraged her to pursue a job in nursing for the opportunities it could afford her.
“He said, ‘You’ll always have a job. You could join the Air Force and travel the world. But no matter what happens, you’ll always have a job, always be able to take care of yourself,’” Johnston recalls.
Johnston has worked as a nurse for more than 30 years, starting in the operating room before moving to the recovery room, and it has influenced her entrepreneurial ventures. In 1988, she founded home health care company Care Advantage Inc. and sold it in 2017. In 2013, she was featured on an episode of ABC’s “Secret Millionaire” TV show.
By the time her father needed hospice care in his old age, Johnston decided to create her own hospice company — Serenity First Hospice — in 2021. Choosing to put her father into hospice care was “difficult,” she says, but she eventually realized the positive impact the care had on him.
“I loved the things they did. They were good for him, and I said, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to help other people like people have helped my dad.’”
Johnston, who serves on the board of Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority, worries about nursing job retention and the well-being of nurses amid the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To reverse the “shrinking” trend, she adds, “health care workers need more accolades or acknowledgement” to help sustain them and the nursing field.