Press Release

Cities and Communities with Heart Initiative Nashville Launches New Program To Reduce Cardiovascular Disease and Risk Factors Among Local Nurses

Caring for the Caregiver will make heart screenings and prevention efforts available to local nurses

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cities and Communities Heart Initiative Nashville (CCHI Nashville) today announced the launch of Caring for the Caregiver, a program to improve cardiovascular health and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors among nurses in Nashville’s hospitals and health systems. Program partners TriStar Health, an HCA affiliate, and Saint Thomas Health, part of Ascension, have kicked off screening and prevention programs across their facilities. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee and Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute will follow later in the year.

In Davidson County, cardiovascular disease is women’s number one killer[i]. For every woman who dies of breast cancer, more than eight die from heart disease and stroke[ii].

“Studies have shown that nurses face increased risk factors for heart disease: long hours, shift work and stressful work environments can all increase a woman’s risk,” said Karen Springer, President and CEO, Saint Thomas Health. “By tackling risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, and supporting exercise and healthy eating, we hope to not only encourage a healthier work force, but create a community of advocates for women’s heart health in Nashville.”

Caring for the Caregiver helps local nurses focus on their own health and addresses the high rate of heart disease and risk factors among female nurses. TriStar Health has launched Heart Check screenings and prevention efforts for nurses at four facilities: TriStar Ashland City, TriStar Centennial, TriStar Southern Hills and TriStar Skyline medical centers. Additional Heart Checks are scheduled for TriStar facilities in late summer.

This week, Saint Thomas Health is offering heart disease screenings and health awareness events for all 8,000 of its associates. There will be health fairs, in addition to heart health screenings, offered throughout May at the Saint Thomas Midtown, Saint Thomas Rutherford and Saint Thomas River Park facilities.

“Findings from research throughout the past decade have indicated that nurses and other healthcare providers have poorer healthy lifestyle behaviors than the general population,” said Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer at Ohio State University and one of the program’s technical advisors. “In addition, compassion fatigue and burnout rates are high in physicians and nurses, which negatively impacts their functioning. Care for our caregivers and great self-care will lead to high quality, safe healthcare with the best outcomes for patients and families.”

“Our nearly 4,000 TriStar Health nurses are dedicated to caring for patients in our Nashville communities, and we are excited to offer a program that cares for them,” said Velinda J. Block, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing executive, TriStar Health. “We’ll host Heart Checks and provide resources throughout the coming months that will help our nurses become aware of their own risk of heart disease, what actions they can take to reduce that risk and how to empower their female patients to keep their hearts healthy.”

“Educating nurses and improving their cardiovascular health not only supports and serves a critical part of the healthcare workforce, it also creates heart health champions that have direct contact with and on patients’ lives,” said WHA CEO British A. Robinson. “Through Caring for the Caregiver, Nashville’s hospitals and health systems will be a model for those in other communities.”

UBER Nashville is providing in-kind support, including free rides for caregivers, for the program.

Caring for the Caregiver is a program of CCHI Nashville, a collaborative initiative envisioned and led by the Women’s Heart Alliance (WHA) to stop women in Nashville from needlessly suffering and dying from cardiovascular disease. It will take a wide-ranging approach to improving women’s heart health through five program components, rolling out in 2017 and beyond:

Caring for the Caregiver, a program to improve cardiovascular health and reduce CVD risk factors among nurses in Nashville’s hospitals and health systems;

  • A clinical study on pregnancy complications and their link to CVD risk factors and CVD;
  • A workforce health initiative through the Office of the Mayor to improve the heart health of female municipal workers;
  • A screening and prevention effort in collaboration with Tennessee State University to reduce CVD and its risk factors in younger women; and
  • A community initiative centered around one or more health centers and reaching African American, and/or immigrant refugee women.

To learn more about the Saint Thomas Health initiative, please visit

For more information about Caring for the Caregiver, please visit:


The Women’s Heart Alliance (WHA) was formed to raise awareness, encourage action and drive new research to fight women’s heart disease. It is a unique collaboration between two of America’s leading medical institutions—the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center—and two major philanthropists and leaders in business and entertainment, Barbra Streisand and Ronald O. Perelman. Learn more at, and on Facebook @Womens Heart Alliance, Twitter @WHA and Instagram @womensheartalliance

Elly Spinweber Burke

[i]     Metro Public Health Department, personal communication, November 22, 2016.

[ii]    Metro Public Health Department, personal communication, February 23, 2017.

Learn more about Caring for the Caregiver