Behind the Scenes: An Interview with John Steele


John Steele

Earlier this month, we told you about the four new WGU Tennessee TV spots that were filmed throughout Tennessee. Featured in three of the spots is John Steele, senior vice president of human resources at HCA. HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) is the largest private provider of healthcare facilities in the world, and a longstanding partner of WGU. Mr. Steele has been working with WGU for the last six years and recently joined the WGU Tennessee advisory board. To provide some insight into why he’s so passionate about WGU Tennessee, we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes interview conducted with him during the TV commercial shoot. We’re grateful for his commitment to expanding access to higher education in the state, as well as his role in helping over 1,000 HCA employees transform their lives and careers by completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree,

Q: What is HCA’s connection to WGU?

JS: We were invited about eight or nine years ago to help WGU identify what a BSN curriculum would look like, as well as what the competencies that nurses on the floor needed in an HCA facility. We've been assisting in that capacity ever since, and have continued to hire people who graduate with a BSN degree from WGU.

Q: When you’re hiring a candidate, what crosses your mind when you see they attended WGU Tennessee? What does that mean to you?

JS: When I see a WGU Tennessee degree, what that says to me is that this is someone who understands how to deal with the complexities of modern-day life. This person knows how to work and get a degree in the complicated world we live in, while working 24/7, and they’re able to do that and still get a degree. A WGU Tennessee degree means that this is someone able to keep up with their job, keep up with their family, and still finish their degree. It says to me that we’ve got somebody who can navigate the complex worlds of HCA and healthcare.

Q: Can you speak to why the flexibility of WGU Tennessee helps your employees get that education?

JS: One of the big challenges for any employee when they want to go back to school is finding time to fit the learning and coursework into a full schedule. There is a huge focus in the nursing world on making the leap from being an RN to earning a BSN. These are nurses who are working on the floor day in and day out, and it’s hard for them to fit in a fixed seat schedule, where they’ve got to sit down and be in a classroom for an hour at a crack two or three days a week. WGU Tennessee gives them the ability to work it into their own schedule.

Q: And what does that mean to you as an employer?

JS: What it means is that I don’t have to lose productivity. I don’t have to give people time off from work so they can sit in a classroom for an hour. I know they’re getting a degree they need, and I have full confidence they are learning what they need to learn and doing it while fitting it into their unique schedule.

Q: And you know that too because HCA helps build the curriculum?

JS: That’s right, so of course from our perspective this is the best of both worlds. We’ve had input into the kind of curriculum and the kind of degree these folks are earning, and we know that when they come out the other side they’re going to be ready to work in an HCA environment and at an HCA facility. 

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