February 25, 2021

Driven by passion and persistence, Kim Arnold goes above and beyond to help patients

“Her service and love for our patients translates directly with her quality of work.”

Kimberly Arnold poses for a photo at VHVI OP Shelbyville-Winchester Thursday, January 28, 2021 in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Kim Arnold was on a mission. One of her patients, who had multiple health issues, had been living out of his car for more than six months. Arnold, a senior patient service specialist at the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute (VHVI) clinic in Shelbyville, Tennessee, was determined to find housing for the man.

Every Tuesday, for the better part of two months, Arnold called a local housing authority to advocate for a home.

“I didn’t give up,” she said. “I called every single Tuesday. And then one morning, I came back to the office on a Monday morning after the weekend. The phone rings and it’s the patient calling. ‘Well, you’re not going to believe this. Guess where I’m sitting?’ I said, ‘Sir, where are you?’ He said, ‘I am in my own apartment.’

“He said, ‘You want to know why? It’s because that lady told me over there in the office building where I’m living that she was sick of hearing from you every single week!’”

Arnold has been working for patients at the front desk in Shelbyville for 25 years. She became a part of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center 15 years ago when the clinic joined the organization. Her exceptional patient care inspired multiple people to nominate her for a Credo Award. She was honored with the award virtually at the February 2021 Virtual Leadership Assembly.

Arnold is the first face most patients see when they come into the clinic. She has proved time and again that she will go beyond her job description to help patients.

“Her service and love for our patients translates directly with her quality of work…Through her excellent service, love, and dedication to our patients, Kim is helping to grow Vanderbilt,” the nomination letter for her Credo award states.

On another recent occasion, an elderly patient who was hard of hearing was concerned his insurance wouldn’t pay for a test he needed. He was having difficulty advocating for himself. That’s when Arnold stepped in and sorted out his insurance situation.

“He came back to the office and he was just crying,” she remembered. “It makes me cry just thinking about it. He said, ‘You’re the only one who would help me, because I had been to every office I know where to go and nobody would help me. And you helped me.’”

Arnold said she genuinely loves working with patients.

“Sometimes when they come into the office you can tell they don’t feel good,” she said. “They’re just not having a great day. I always try to do this. Before that patient leaves … I’ll tell them I’m going to make them smile before they leave this office. And a lot of times I can. I can make them smile before they leave. And they don’t want to, but they do. They smile.”

She not only makes patients smile; they bring a smile to her face, too. She simply loves her job.

“I just cannot see myself being at a cubicle and being on the telephone all day,” she said. “I have got to have interaction of some type. I like it because I feel like there’s a little part of me that gets to help people, even though I don’t have a big, fancy job. I’m not the nurse or the doctor or anything like that. But there’s some part of it there that I can help a little bit. It makes me feel good.”

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.