Award-Winning CRNA and Barry Alum Nicole DeLoach Hubbard Wants to Appreciate Each Moment

At Tampa General Hospital, the Level-1 trauma center where Nicole DeLoach Hubbard serves as co-chief CRNA, the Covid-19 pandemic has been met with fortitude, flexibility, and a lot of quick thinking.

Apr 22, 2022

Award-Winning CRNA and Barry Alum Nicole DeLoach Hubbard Wants to Appreciate Each Moment At Tampa General Hospital, the Level-1 trauma center where Nicole DeLoach Hubbard serves as co-chief CRNA, the Covid-19 pandemic has been met with fortitude, flexibility, and a lot of quick thinking. Early on, as infected patients began to arrive in great numbers, Hubbard and her team devised a strategy that would minimize exposure to the virus. “We set up Covid-19 airway rooms,” she says. Within these contained rooms, CRNAs wore full personal protective equipment (PPE), enabling them to intubate and extubate critical Covid patients with minimal risk of exposing others in the hospital. “By setting up these rooms, we kept the OR staff safe and helped conserve PPE,” says Hubbard.

Overseeing this containment effort, managing a team of CRNAs, and parenting two young children—both bored amid school closures—would have been enough for anyone. But Hubbard, whose energy seems boundless, leads with both head and heart, often stepping into the role of cheerleader or advocate and encouraging those around her to take stock of small victories and moments of joy. This instinct to capture the good inside a very bad year helped motivate Hubbard’s weary colleagues and, much to the surprise of Hubbard herself, inspired a now-famous photograph that became an emblem of hope for people around the globe.

The photo, snapped by Hubbard on the day her team began implementing Covid-19 airway rooms, shows two CRNAs, a married couple both in full PPE, gazing at one another through their face shields and N-95 masks. Each is cupping the other’s covered cheek with a gloved hand. According to Hubbard, it was a moment of reconciliation, of appreciating what truly matters. “They had been fighting on their way to work,” says Hubbard. But when faced again with the reality of the pandemic and their positions as critical care providers, they quickly reconciled. By chance, Hubbard captured this brief act of love and humanity, and, with the permission of her colleagues, she shared it among a few friends and her staff. Soon, the image was everywhere—on television screens and in newspapers, on the Instagram feeds of Jennifer Aniston and Hillary Clinton, in media outlets across 15 countries, in a Ford Motor Company ad campaign, and even in an NFL draft video. 

While going viral was a new experience for Hubbard, she is no stranger to public recognition. Since earning her Master of Science in Anesthesiology from Barry University, in 2002, she has been building her career as a nurse anesthetist at Tampa General Hospital, the largest anesthesia practice facilitated by TeamHealth. As co-chief CRNA at the hospital, she not only represents 130 of her colleagues but also serves on the National Advanced Practice Council as one of just four representing anesthetists nationwide. Recently, she was named Chair Elect of the Council, another leadership position among several she has held not only with TeamHealth and Tampa General Hospital but within her local community as well.

All the time Hubbard spends leading and inspiring others has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues. In 2020, while she was working tirelessly to care for critical Covid-19 patients, Hubbard was named CRNA of the Year by Tampa General Hospital. Hubbard was humbled and stunned by the honor, but a bigger surprise was soon to come. In May of this year, TeamHealth awarded her Advanced Practice Clinician of the Year, a national distinction. Hubbard is the first anesthetist to ever receive the honor. She says she was left speechless by the award—“which rarely happens!!”  After one of the hardest years she’s experienced in her professional career, she accepted the honor with pure joy and gratitude. It was, for sure, a moment to appreciate.

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