Patient and Family Choice Award

June 5, 2024

A seriously ill patient was scared she wouldn’t survive the night — until she met nurse Inga-Liese Konynenbelt in the VUMC Emergency Department

“Inga made me feel that I was going to be OK. I am eternally grateful for her.”

Inga-Liese Konynenbelt, a VUMC ED C-Pod night shift nurse is the 2024 Vanderbilt University Hospital Inpatient - Patient and Family Choice Award Winner. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Inga-Liese Konynenbelt, RN, has only worked the overnight shift in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Emergency Department C-Pod stepdown unit since November 2023, but in that short time, she has made a huge impact on the patients she has cared for.

For her dedication to her patients, her compassion, and her ability to instill calm in what is often the worst day of a patient’s life, Konynenbelt was one of six employees chosen this year to receive a Patient and Family Choice Award.

Nominations are submitted by patients and families. The award honors employees from across Vanderbilt Health who act with compassion and excellence to provide an exceptional experience for patients and their families. This year, Vanderbilt’s five patient and family advisory councils bestowed awards to six individuals from Vanderbilt University Hospital, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, Vanderbilt Adult Ambulatory Clinics, Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital and Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital.

Konynenbelt was nominated by a seriously ill patient who was transferred to VUMC from an outlying hospital. The patient’s gallbladder had stopped functioning, her heart was stressed, cardiac enzymes were elevated, and her blood pressure, dangerously low.

“Inga was amazing! Her personality, positive mindset and skill embodies what a successful nursing team needs,” the nomination read. “Inga was exactly who I needed that night, and I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for her, I might not have survived this ordeal. I truly believe she should be recognized as one of Vanderbilt’s top employees. I know in my heart that she approaches every shift the way she did that shift on that night and therefore deserves the recognition. I have never been as scared as I was that night, and Inga made me feel that I was going to be OK. I am eternally grateful for her.”

“Above and beyond for each patient”

Ali Grubbs, MSN, RN, NE-BC, nurse manager of the C-Pod, said Konynenbelt is an exceptional nurse and well loved by her patients and peers.

“She is an incredible team player, and her teammates praise her kindness and compassionate dedication to patient care,” she said.

April Anderson, RN, nightshift C-Pod charge nurse, agreed.

“Inga at baseline is a very empathetic and compassionate nurse. She goes above and beyond for each and every one of her patients just to make their stay at the hospital more comfortable,” Anderson said. “Inga is also a great team player and is always willing to help her peers whether it’s with tasks or teaching skills to new nurse residents. Inga has a plethora of knowledge she shares with us from her years of experience, and we enjoy having her as an asset (and friend) in C-pod.”

“This is the worst day of their life. They need our help.”

Konynenbelt and her husband, Eric, moved to Nashville last year from Wisconsin where she had been a cardiac nurse on an intermediate cardiac care floor at the University of Wisconsin.

“Being at Vanderbilt has been a really cool experience,” she said. “I loved cardiology. It was very specialized, but on the C-Pod I get to see a wide variety of patients from a lot of walks of life,” said Konynenbelt, who said she was probably drawn to nursing because her father had an extensive history of cardiac issues, and her mother is also a nurse.

“You have to acknowledge that this is a lot of our patients’ worst day,” she said. “We treat our patients equally and meet people where they’re at. It doesn’t matter if they’re a VIP, a normal walking, talking human on the street, or if they have drug use history. It doesn’t matter. They still need our help, and our goal is to make sure they’re as comfortable as they can be,” Konynenbelt said.

“Some days we can’t guarantee no pain, and we can’t guarantee that everything is going to be cured in one night. But my goal is to try and provide comfort as best I can. I try to have compassion and make sure people feel heard. A lot of times that’s what gets missed in a hospital. You might be in the ED for hours and feel like nothing is happening and are wondering what’s going on. A lot of times what’s needed is someone breaking the communications barrier and explaining why they are waiting, what’s going to be done first, and what the next steps look like.”

Konynenbelt was presented with the Patient Family Choice Award during a recent early morning shift change with leadership present. “When they said my name, I was shocked,” she said. “I was not anticipating it. It was really nice for them to present it to me this way. I was honored to be given this award.”