Leaving Her Mark: Nurse Goes from Bedside to Executive Suite
Lillie Biggins always knew she wanted to take care of people.
Growing up, she admired her mother — an in-home caregiver — and older sister — a licensed vocational nurse — for the roles they took on. She noticed how much joy it brought to them and wanted to be the same.
At the dawn of her career, she swept floors and cleaned beds at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth to be close to health care. The housekeeping job was the only position available that didn’t require experience. There on the hospital’s isolation unit she found mentors in the licensed vocational nurses who taught her the basics of patient care. One of them, Biggins recalls, would often look her in the eye and encourage her with the words “Don’t stop here.”
Taking that advice to heart, Biggins poured her passion for health care into a 43-year accomplished career that spans direct patient care, nursing leadership and executive roles. She’s currently the president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and was recently inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in May joining the ranks of the state’s most accomplished women. Other 2014 inductees include Hon. Nandita Berry, Joanne Herring, Colonel Kim Olson, First Lady Anita Perry, Dr. Ann Stuart, Hon. Senfronia Thompson, Deborah Tucker and Hon. Carolyn Wright.
“I believe that life is a journey of learning, and that no matter what job you have it is a blessing to be employed,” Biggins said. “I now tell students to be the best you can be no matter the job and learn to be grateful. This doesn’t mean give up on your purpose or dreams, but always be true to the place you are while on the journey. And, by all means, don’t allow your now to impede your destiny.”
Biggins graduated from John Peter Smith School of Nursing in 1971 alongside her older sister, Alleyne. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a master’s from Texas Woman’s University in Denton. She held an appointment of assistant clinical professor in hospital administration at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas for six years and currently serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Before working at Texas Health Fort Worth, she was chief nursing officer at Columbia Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth and vice president of east campus operations at Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth. She holds 21 years of nursing leadership experience between John Peter Smith Hospital and Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
“I’m a critical care nurse at heart,” Biggins said. “Leaving the bedside to take an administrative role was not an easy decision, but I felt called to do something more. You can make a bigger impact the higher up you go.”
Biggins joined Texas Health Fort Worth in 1997 as vice president of operations, overseeing major departments including emergency, trauma and restorative services. She was promoted to hospital president in 2012.
“In the 20 years I have known Lillie, I’ve watched her inspire and motivate those around her,” said Barclay Berdan, chief operating officer for Texas Health Resources. “She believes in helping others and making her hospital, her community and the world a better place. She’s a visionary leader who always keeps our patients and their families at the forefront of every decision she makes. She offers wise counsel to those around her and is a personal hero to many for seemingly being able to effortlessly do it all as a working mother and grandmother.”
Biggins and her sister dreamt of opening a nursing home someday “where people come to live and not to die, with tennis courts and a spa, a place to celebrate life,” she said. The hospital’s new Senior Health & Wellness Center is an outgrowth of that dream. Her vision is to help families work together as a unit to care for their aged loved ones at home through the help of the centers advanced practice nurses, who help with reconciling medications and managing chronic diseases.
She’s passionate about giving back to her community and serves on the Workforce Solutions for the Tarrant County Board, the Texas Hospital Association Committee on Trauma, the North Texas LEAD Advisory Board, the CareFlite Emergency Services Board of Directors and the University of Texas at Arlington Nursing Advisory Board. She is a member of a number of professional organizations including the American College of Health Care Executives, Texas Nurses Association, American Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau.
“Lillie’s life has been centered on faith, family and community service,” said Janelle Shepard, RN-BC, BSN, MBA, care transitions senior director for Texas Health Resources. “She is famous for facing difficult, sometimes emotional situations with a steadfast resolve. She tells her hospital employees to ‘Do the right thing, we won’t regret it.’”
Biggins was appointed to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board in May 2005 and was recently named chairman of the board for the second time. She previously served as chairman in 2008. She works tirelessly to promote the Dallas/Fort Worth region with the airport authority.
“Lillie Biggins is a class act,” said former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief. “She is not only a compassionate leader who happens to be a registered nurse, but a tremendous voice for the DFW International Airport Board which she currently chairs. Most importantly, she is a dear friend of Rosie’s and mine who we love, value and appreciate.”
Born and raised in Fort Worth, Biggins is the proud mother of four children and a grandmother of eleven grandchildren. She and her husband, James, live in Southeast Fort Worth and are active members of Sweet Home Baptist Church.
“God has chosen me to do his work, because no one could do this without his help,” she said. “Whoever thought when I was a nurse that I would become president of Texas Health Fort Worth? I’m leaving my mark at this hospital; you’re going to know I was here.”