Congratulations to director of nursing of the year Ellen Lamkey

Ellen Lamkey, director of nursing at Hillcrest Healthcare’s Island Home community, has been named director of nursing of the year by the Tennessee Directors of Nursing Association (TDONA), an affiliate organization of Tennessee Health Care Association (THCA).

“Ellen is passionate about her job, managing with skill and grace and creating an environment of quality, compassionate care for the patients and residents,” said Barry Davis, president and CEO of Hillcrest Healthcare. “She develops her team and always has an encouraging word while ensuring clinical systems and nursing teams run smoothly. We are thrilled that she has received this prestigious recognition among all the great nursing directors across Tennessee.”

Ellen joined the organization as assistant director of nursing in 2011 and moved into the director role after just two weeks! She manages a team of 70 associates at the 95-bed facility in South Knoxville and credits their part in earning the recognition. “This award is the culmination of hard work by the entire Island Home team, and I’m so grateful to them,” Lamkey shared. “I would not have this recognition without the associates who genuinely care about the patients and residents and go out of their way to provide that extra love and assistance. I’m humbled and thankful to receive and share this celebration with my coworkers.”

She was honored in a ceremony on Aug. 11 during the Tennessee Health Care Association (THCA) Annual Convention and Trade Show in Knoxville.

Island Home administrator Trudy Durham nominated Ellen for the award. “Ellen has to stay on top of so many things, staffing, managing clinical issues, helping with admissions, overseeing day-to-day operations,” Durham shared. “It’s not just nursing. If the dietary or housekeeping teams are understaffed, she’ll step in and do laundry, take out the trash or mop – whatever the residents need, she’ll step in to help. That level of character is why I nominated her, and I’m so happy that she is receiving this prestigious recognition.”

Ellen Lamkey poses with Hillcrest Healthcare coworkers and supporters after winning the statewide Director of Nursing of the Year award from the Tennessee Directors of Nursing Association.

Ellen also is passionate about developing employees to grow their careers. “I’m blessed because some of the best nurses in Tennessee choose to work here. I’d estimate that 60-65% of the nurses were CNAs when they started, then went back to school to further their education and become LPNs. I’m a big supporter of education, so I’ll work with students to provide flexible schedules so they can work while going to school. Hillcrest Healthcare also has a reimbursement program for education, so that helps them feel supported as they expand their knowledge and skills.”

Ellen is not afraid to get her hands dirty and ask for a little forgiveness in order to help residents at Island Home. “During COVID when we couldn’t allow visitors in, we had a couple who needed each other and were used to daily visits. When the husband couldn’t come into the facility to visit his wife any longer, he’d come to the window. There was a bush in the way, so me and my team may have … maybe … trimmed the bush so he could get closer. I had to ask forgiveness for that. His wife was concerned that he would get sunburned, so our team put up a tent for him to sit under. We do what we need to do for the best interest of patients.”

When asked what her favorite thing is about Island Home, she doesn’t hesitate: “The people I get to work with and the patients we serve.”

Ellen earned a Bachelor of Science (BSN) from The University of Tennessee and is involved in multiple community service organizations. She serves as regent for the Bonny Kate Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR); troop leader for the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians; senior vice president for Children of the American Revolution, James White chapter; and mentor for tnAchieves.

She is a mother to daughters Victoria and Caroline and cat Ollie. Her daughter also raises chickens and ducks to show at fairs and 4-H. Ellen resides in Seymour and enjoys spending time with family and visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If you’d like to join the Island Home team or any of our three Knoxville communities, visit to learn more.