‘The ultimate team player’

What began as what she thought would be a temporary job culminated for Janet Kinney on Thursday with a retirement celebration to honor her nearly 45 years of service to Northwest Florida Community Hospital.

Kinney began her career in February 1977 as a switchboard operator. 

Through the years, she has held many positions at the hospital, including materials manager, in data processing, administrative assistant to the Director of Nursing, purchasing agent, marketing director, director of clinical services, and purchasing manager. She has also served as interim CEO for both NFCH and the facility’s sister hospital, Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in Blountstown. She retired this month as NFCH Chief Operating Officer. 

“I was simply going to work part time for a few months,” reflects Kinney. “I walked into the front lobby of the old hospital and asked if there were any jobs available at the switchboard. I started working that day. But every day, it grew on me, and I really started to love what I was doing.”

Kinney, beloved by both hospital staff and members of the community, was honored Thursday with a reception in the event room at the NFCH Specialty Center – a room that she learned will soon be officially named the Janet Kinney Education Center as a nod to her years of dedication to the hospital, its staff, and the patients it serves.

NFCH CEO Michael Kozar made the announcement, noting Kinney’s passion for her work.

“There are no words or descriptions that can describe the dedication and commitment that Janet has given to this organization,” said Kozar. “More times than not, Janet worked seven days a week to ensure that our staff had what was needed to take care of our patients. She always put the staff and the patients before herself.”

“There is not a nook or cranny of this organization that Janet has not touched,” he added. “The knowledge acquired as she accumulated these years could never be duplicated. Janet Kinney is the ultimate team player, and NFCH has been blessed to have her on our team.”

Kozar points to Kinney’s efforts for many of the hospital’s successes over the years – as well as for helping ensure growth for Calhoun-Liberty Hospital, where Kinney has served twice as interim CEO.

“Without her work at Calhoun Liberty post Hurricane Michael, working with the state of Florida, FEMA, DEO, and many other organizations, that community couldn’t be in a position today to be building a new hospital,” he said. “Her work made that new hospital possible.”

Among many milestones Kinney has helped see to fruition for NFCH are the renovation projects for both the emergency room and the 2nd floor, helping acquire generators for the hospital which proved prudent when the facility found itself running on generator power for ten days following Hurricane Michael, and helping grow the hospital’s physician practices to where they are now, logging more than 55,000 clinic visits a year.

Most recently, Kinney helped the hospital and the community navigate testing and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping make the gold standard of COVID-19 testing – polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – an in-house service available in Chipley. 

“She nearly single handedly created a molecular lab at NFCH that has processed tens of thousands of COVID tests in our community,” said Kozar.

But just as adept as Kinney is at making the big things happen, she has never forgotten that it’s the most basic of duties that are vital to the hospital’s success. Her peers note that Kinney’s job description has few limits.

“I think she has done everything in this hospital but work as a doctor,” mused Dr. Annette Porter. “She would get in the kitchen and cook, clean bathrooms, and also run the hospital administratively. She knows everything and has done every job here. She has been the backbone of this place forever and has an incredible heart for this community. There’s no way we can adequately thank her.”

Dr. Gabriel Berry agrees.

“Janet is just behind the scenes and makes the hospital go,” he said. “She doesn’t seek any attention, but if there’s anything you need to make happen or anything you need done, she’s the one who makes it happen. She’s the answer to any question.”

Marcey Black, who served as CFO/Director of Accounting during Kinney’s tenure, called her a problem solver. 

“She’s probably the most hard-working person I’ve ever known – most dedicated for sure,” said Black. “If we were short on housekeeping staff, I’ve seen Janet grab a cart and get to work. Any position, she worked it there.”

Former NFCH materials manager Shane Blackburn credits Kinney for a lot of his professional growth.

“We worked in tandem, we’re a lot like family,” said Blackburn. “I worked for her for 22 years, initially as warehouse clerk when she was materials manager. As she moved up, I did, too. She was often the first one there and the last to leave. I owe her much for my well-being and career development.”

As much as Kinney loved her work family, she also took the time to have a family of her own with husband, Lane. The couple raised three children – Megan, Kaitlin, and Colt ¬– and she is enjoying life as a grandmother to Luke.

Megan Kinney says she has plenty of memories of growing up around her mom’s extended family.

“I literally grew up in that hospital,” she said. When I was just a few weeks old, I was in a bassinet in my mom’s office. Without a doubt, we all learned our work ethic from her.”

Long-time friend, Washington County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett, says Kinney’s work ethic benefited not only her family and NFCH, but the community as well.

“Because of her leadership, absolute knowledge of every aspect of the hospital, the hospital was able to weather the tough times only to come out better than it has been ever before,” said Everett. 

“To many, it would be surprising just how large of an impact this singular act had on our hospital and all rural hospitals. It truly forced our hospital to seek other ways to make ends meet. It was the executive leadership team of which Janet was a part that found new programs, new ways to expand the care the hospital could offer our community.”

“I have witnessed the love and concern she exudes for each and every person at the hospital,” he added. “Their problem was her problem to help solve, and she did that with smarts, compassion, firmness, and sound counseling.”

Kinney says while she is sure she will still be around on a limited basis to help the hospital with future endeavors, she does have a few thoughts to leave with her NFCH family.

“Keep the patient in front of you and live the purpose of healing and caring for others. That’s the reason why we are in healthcare,” she said. 

“And I hope you know I’ll always be your biggest fan and will look and celebrate every achievement in the future – because there’s a lot coming.”