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Sarasota Hospital Board Central District Seat 1: Vicki L. Nighswander

Meet the candidate.

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  • | 7:45 a.m. September 25, 2020
  • Sarasota
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These questionnaire responses were originally published in July for the primary election.

Name: Vicki L. Nighswander

Age: 69

Family: Erica is our daughter. Tom, my husband, is deceased.


I have lived full time in Sarasota since 2006. I have served on the Human Services Advisory Council, the Sewer and Water Advisory Committee and various HOA Board positions and committees. I developed a model operations manual for a local business, completed the County Civics 101 and last year became a master gardener besides serving on the candidate interview committee for Sierra Club, doing poll work and other volunteer activities. I have spoken at numerous county hearings and meetings related to growth issues and the need to bring health and safety as priority concerns.

My career was in public health, mainly as a supervisor. I have a BS in biology, an MAT in secondary sciences and an MPH in health behavior/health education with a minor in administration. I have had lots of specialized training and certifications over the years. I developed and ran a mosquito education, monitoring and control program in response to an encephalitis outbreak in Ohio. I did rabies work, food service and swimming pool inspections, designed sewage and water systems and dealt with water and foodborne illnesses. I won a grant to reduce a surge in infant mortality in an international population. I was the first coordinator and supervisor of the HIV/STD Program and Clinic for Washtenaw County, Mich., and wrote all the initial operating procedures. I was the Regional Planning Committee chair. I was able to get the two competing hospitals infectious disease departments to provide staffing at the clinic. The providers and the community benefitted from this collaborative effort.

I believe in community health assessments and effective and efficient planning, implementation and evaluation. Later in my career I supervised substance abuse and worksite wellness programming as well.

I have written and gotten a number of grants and was the administrator of several including a Substance Abuse Prevention social marketing campaign after updating my skills at USF in Social Marketing in Public Health. 

I hope to be a voice for public health. My lens will be that of effective and efficient health promotion and disease prevention. This pandemic and those in the future will require management planning with an eye on best practices and a goal of best outcomes. At present the needs of those dealing with the virus at home alone is a big concern. Partnering and coordination is very important besides financial management. Sarasota Memorial Hospital is a great institution and must remain appropriately responsive to community health needs. Yes, planning and evaluation have always been one of my fun skills. 

Since I have dealt with communicable disease and partner notification and we are in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic and no other candidate, nor present member of the public Hospital Board, has this experience, I feel it is important to our community to have someone like myself on the board. One of the awards received over the years was one I feel particularly touched by i.e. Unsung Hero.


Why are you running for office?

I feel there is a great need for at least one public health person to be a voice, provide input and support to our public hospital particularly in these times and into the uncertain future. My background and experience particularly in communicable disease and community health needs assessments and programming keeping effectiveness and efficiencies, health promotion and disease prevention in the forefront makes me a needed candidate.

What are three priorities you hope to accomplish, if elected?

  1. Being assured that Sarasota Memorial Hospital can meet the needs and provide the best outcomes for community health occurrences such as COVID-19. And be ready for others;
  2. Being assured that staff and patients have what they need to remain safe and healthy; and
  3. Being assured that appropriate networking is occurring in the community to address routine assessed community health needs in the most effective and efficient manner.

Compared to other not-for –profit hospital companies nationwide, Sarasota Memorial’s operating margins-7.3%- are more than three times better than the national average. What, if anything, would you suggest the hospital and hospital board should be doing differently to improve the hospital system’s nationally recognized operations?

Presently, Sarasota Memorial is doing a comprehensive audit and making tax millage rate recommendations keeping in mind the actual budget and projected budgets for the next five years. The financial impact of COVID-19, I haven’t seen. Many hospitals have needed to make significant adjustments. This is a present evolving situation that as a board member I would have an eagle eye on. The present data shows the hospital to be in good solvent shape and moving ahead with its many endeavors and maintain the present tax millage rate.

What skill set will you bring to the board that is not there now?

I bring my many years of diverse public health knowledge and values to this board. My front-line knowledge of communicable disease and partner notification and management is presently a missing component. Program planning and evaluation always drew my attention as well as meeting community health needs most effectively and efficiently using best practices.

SM Health Systems reported $193 million in uncollected/bad debts last fiscal year. That’s 20% of total revenues and twice what the hospital system generates in operating profits. What’s your comment and reaction to that?

As we know, health care financing is in flux. I will want to know that SMH is advocating for its needs and that of those who are underserved. I will want to know more about this shortfall and how it compares with others as well as how it impacts the budget as a whole particularly with the unforeseen impact of the pandemic. However at this point in time, these uncollected/bad debts seem to have not upset the progress being made by SMH.

SM Health System is opening its new hospital in Venice in 2021. What’s your view on whether SMH should have a hospital in North Port?

Yes, I will want to know more about this as well. What were and are the determining factors that SMH uses. It does seem to me that with the great growth in North Port, that more health services are needed. Where will West Villages be more likely to go if North Port has increased hospital presence? I would like to see the data, variables and the present and projected health needs particularly pertaining to access to care.


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