May 25, 2022

Jenny Leigh sets out each day to make a difference for her fellow nurses

Leigh, a nursing education specialist, provides educational support for more than 400 staff members in the NICU

Jenny Leigh, RN-BC, MSN, RNC-NIC Credo award winner at Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Jenny Leigh. Photo by Susan Urmy. 

Jenny Leigh, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, RNC-NIC, supports the nurses who care for Vanderbilt’s smallest and most fragile patients, the babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Leigh, a nursing education specialist, offers outstanding educational support for the more than 400 current staff members who provide care for 119 beds in the NICU. On top of her regular responsibilities over the last 10 years, she has implemented the Vanderbilt University Medical Center competency process, a project that started in the NICU and that has been so successful it has been rolled out to more than 7,000 clinical staff.

For her sense of ownership and commitment to excellence, Leigh was recognized with a Credo Award during the May 2022 virtual Leadership Assembly.

“One of my most favorite things is really truly feeling like I’m making a difference, both for the end users — the staff members — as well as hopefully impacting the care that they’re providing, and that we’re having better outcomes,” Leigh said. “Working with the team and my director is something that I truly enjoy.”

Leigh joined Vanderbilt in 2008 as a nursing resident, then transitioned into the nursing education specialist position. Leigh’s role begins with onboarding nurses into the NICU and providing classes to bring them up to speed with the fast-paced work. For example, new nurses may know how to care for newborns, but not babies born at 22-weeks gestation.

“Nursing school doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about the NICU,” Leigh said. “My role as a nursing education specialist is to bridge that gap.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, Leigh and her team quickly transitioned many orientations to a virtual setting and reduced class sizes in the in-person, hands-on classes that continued. It was tricky at first, but she soon saw some advantages to the virtual platform.

Leigh and her husband, Jim, love playing board games — she has close to 400 of them at home. She’s translated that love of games to “gamify” the learning process, making learning feel more like playing a game — and more effective.

“Some of what we are presenting and how we present it may have been better than what we could have offered in the classroom,” she said. “It’s neat to be able to see.”

Her tireless work hasn’t gone unnoticed by her nominators.

“Jenny is always engaged and ready to commit herself to her role when she is at work,” writes one. “She takes ownership of her work by ensuring that everything she does is of the highest quality, and this hard work and dedication is recognized by many of the NICU staff. It is evident that Jenny has a deep sense of pride in her work and is very passionate about the NICU patient population and providing the highest level of professional development to our staff.”

“Jenny is a fantastic leader,” said Marissa Lemley Brown, MSN, RN, CPN, director of Clinical Education. “She is a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to take the time to answer questions, problem solve and collaborate. She serves our education team as a REDCap guru, (VUMC) Competency encyclopedia and mentor to both education specialists and unit leaders. With a friendly tone and welcoming smile, she truly makes those she serves her highest priority.”

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.