“If I have touched one life, it was worth the journey!”
– Debbie Johnston
Successful Nurse, Businesswoman, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and Adoption Champion
Debbie Johnston has been recognized as the Entrepreneur of Richmond, Philanthropist of the Year, and Woman on the Move. She is a highly esteemed entrepreneur, health care expert, business guru, non-profit expert, and Virginia’s Adoption Champion. Debbie is the founder of Care Advantage Inc. and Virginia’s non-profit organization for adoption awareness, Connecting Hearts.
“Originally, I wanted to be a secretary like my mom but after considerable coaxing from my dad, I decided to go into nursing. My dad told me that nursing would always afford me a job in good times and bad,” said Debbie.
Somehow, her parents scraped up the three-year tuition for Debbie to attend the Johnston-Willis School of Nursing. Following nursing school, she decided to work in the operating room where she learned a lot in a short amount of time. In her book, The School of Heart Knocks, she tells the story of watching a 14-year-old girl receive her last rites in the emergency room. It was then that she decided to become a recovery room nurse, to lessen the close interaction with patients and guard against such heartache.
“I began to see people being discharged quicker and sicker, which prompted my curiosity about what was happening to patients once they were sent home. It was this curiosity that led me into my career of home care.”
Debbie founded Care Advantage in 1988 and it quickly became a leading company for personal and companion home healthcare, with 15 offices and affiliates throughout Virginia. Care Advantage, Inc., Nurse Advantage, and All About Care, together employ approximately 3,000 health care professionals in Central Virginia and surrounding areas. In 2017 Care Advantage Inc. was sold to Bell Health and today Debbie serves on their board.
“I believe that one of the best things about growing a financially successful company is having the ability to give to others. Through my companies I gave over a million dollars to organizations all over the community.”
In 2013, Debbie was featured on ABC’s reality show Secret Millionaire where she went undercover for a week in one of the country’s poorest cities, Richmond, California, where she volunteered for 3 different non-profit organizations and at the end of the week gave away thousands of dollars of her own money.
Debbie stated, “If I have touched one life, it was worth the journey.”
In August of 2014, Debbie Johnston was appointed by Governor McAuliffe as Virginia’s Adoption Champion. She then started the non-profit organization, Connecting Hearts, to raise awareness for adoption in Virginia. As an adoptee herself, Debbie knows the value of giving a voice to the children without homes in Virginia. In January of 2018 Connecting Hearts partnered with Jewish Family Services, Richmond’s most established non-profit resource for care, counseling, and adoption.
Debbie currently uses her business expertise to coach others who want to start a business and is working on new endeavors of her own. Debbie’s newest businesses include Ask Nurse Debbie, Central Virginia’s premier healthcare navigation service, and Serenity First Hospice, which provides expert and innovative hospice care in the heart of Richmond, VA, and is rapidly growing since its start in February of 2021.