Kim Isenberg stepped up to help guide Children’s Hospital through the worst days of the pandemic
The Five Pillar Leader Award winner honored for her “outstanding and continuous leadership.”March 18, 2021
Photo by Erin O. Smith
Kim Isenberg’s job, like many this year at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, took an unexpected pivot this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isenberg, RN, MSN, a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner in both acute and primary care, serves as the APRN team manager, overseeing nurse practitioners for ENT, PATCH (Perioperative Assessment and Teaching for Children’s Hospital), pediatric sedation and the new Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt Surgery and Clinics in Murfreesboro.
But early in the pandemic when the governor mandated that elective surgical volume be paused, she was asked to help review hundreds of scheduled surgeries at Children’s Hospital to help clinically prioritize which surgical cases should be rescheduled or should continue as planned.
“She approaches each child and family as an individual and regularly consults with anesthesia and other providers to create a seemingly effortless transition from the clinic, to the operating room, to discharge for all of her patients and families.”
For this and much more, Isenberg was honored with a Five Pillar Leader Award at the February Virtual Leadership Assembly.
Last year, as the hospital ramped back up, she again reviewed and re-prioritized cases in partnership with the surgical clinics to regain Children’s Hospital’s surgical volume, and was critical to redirecting care to the Murfreesboro ambulatory surgery location to rebuild the hospital’s surgical volume while allowing for physical distancing.
“Kim personally persevered and willingly gave of herself and hundreds of additional hours of work to ensure that we were able to restart our surgical and anesthesia services as safely and quickly as possible,” a nominator wrote.
In May 2020, the PATCH nurse practitioner team was asked to lead the pre-anesthesia testing program, asymptomatic testing for patients requiring anesthesia, and Isenberg was critical to the implementation of the program that included the operating rooms, anesthesia, radiology at Children’s Hospital and ambulatory surgery at the Children’s Hospital Surgery and Clinics in Murfreesboro.
“To date this program has tested more than 17,000 patients since May and would not have been possible without Kim’s outstanding and continuous leadership,” one nominator wrote.
Another nominator mentioned Isenberg’s decision to do away with re-used plastic charts in the PATCH clinic during the pandemic. It was a change that had been discussed for years, but Isenberg walked into the clinic, saw someone returning a used chart and said, “now’s the time…We’re not doing this anymore.”
“And just like that, they were gone,” the nominator wrote. “I read a great book on leadership many years ago. It discussed how natural born leaders emerge in a crisis and they are moved to act. The book goes on to relate a poignant story about Gandhi walking out of a ‘what are we going to do’ meeting in order to ‘go and do.’ Her action was immediately reminiscent of that scene.”
Isenberg, who received her BSN from Lipscomb University and MSN degree from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, started her career at Vanderbilt in 1998 as a nurse practitioner in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition where she worked for six years. She then moved to Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, performing lumbar punctures and bone marrow extractions on patients and training other nurse practitioners to do the same.
In Isenberg’s clinical role, she continues to practice one day a week in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, performing lumbar punctures and bone marrow extractions on patients.
“She approaches each child and family as an individual and regularly consults with anesthesia and other providers to create a seemingly effortless transition from the clinic, to the operating room, to discharge for all of her patients and families,” a nominator wrote. “She is also a natural teacher and has mentored hundreds of nurse practitioners methodically and patiently.”
Isenberg said she loves the relationships she’s formed with patients. “The great thing about this role is that you’re able to develop continuity with those families,” she said. “They see you weekly, then monthly, then it spreads out. It allows you, on their darkest days, to meet them and walk them through it and help them on the road to recovery. They find comfort in seeing the same faces and you develop a really trusting relationship over time. It’s easy to fall in love with a patient you see that often.”
But her role during the pandemic has been equally as fulfilling.
“I would never have imagined that this was something I would start to do, or have the responsibility for, but it’s helped me create relationships with a lot of people I haven’t worked with before. It was a huge amount of professional growth,” Isenberg said.
If you are a VUMC employee, you can nominate a colleague for an Elevate Credo Award, Five Pillar Leader Award, or Team Award. Visit the Elevate website to fill out a nomination form. Employees demonstrate credo behaviors when: they make those they serve the highest priority; respect privacy and confidentiality; communicate effectively; conduct themselves professionally; have a sense of ownership; and are committed to their colleagues. Elevate award nominations are accepted year-round. If a nomination is received after the cut off for an award selection period, the nomination will be considered for the next period. VUMC Voice will post stories on each of the award winners in the weeks following their announcement.