Source: The News-Enterprise, May 31, 2021
Jamie Wilkerson supervises multiple groups in his role as director of critical care and cardiovascular services at Baptist Health Hardin.
Wilkerson pursued a degree in corporate communications at Western Kentucky University, but the summer before he graduated realized he was drawn to nursing. In 2005, he got his doctor of nursing science and started working at The Medical Center in Bowling Green. He started working at the local hospital in 2013.
“I’ve got multiple departments that fall under me,” Wilkerson said. “I support the caregivers, those giving direct care to the patients.”
Along with critical care and cardiovascular services, Wilkerson supervises employees in the cath lab, cardio pulmonary rehab, radiology RN, nurse practitioners in nuclear medicine, progressive care unit, central monitoring department, IV resource team, SICU and CICU and the cardiovascular diagnostics area.
“I have the best of all worlds in this leadership role because I still have a lot of direct, hands on patient involvement,” he said.
The best part of his job, he said, is seeing positive patient outcomes while supporting management and clinical staff and seeing them do best they can to deliver patient care.
Sharon Wright, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Baptist Health Hardin, called Wilkerson a “gifted nursing leader who sets high self-expectations.”
“He leads with a clear focus on exceptional patient care and creating a work environment where all can grow professionally,” Wright said. “His natural positivity radiates to all who encounter him at work and in the community.”
She called him an “all-around great person” and someone who puts others first.
“It’s a pleasure to know and lead alongside Jamie,” she said.
Wilkerson, 40, said the thing that makes him tick is helping those who are delivering care to the patients at the hospital. In a way, Wilkerson said, it feels like he works for them.
Wilkerson watched those he supervised take on new challenges during COVID-19. It hit in the middle of a switch over to a new company and a complete medical records system change.
The unknown of COVID was a big issue at the beginning and still a little today, Wilkerson said.
“You are trying to deliver a message to the staff that we’re here to take care of patients and everything’s going to be OK at a time when everything was uncertain,” Wilkerson said. “There was no algorithm that said how you treat COVID.”
Everyone had to start at the beginning stage of information when it came to COVID and he found it frightening.
Staff members at times were scared to go home after work thinking they might bring the respiratory ailment to their families, Wilkerson said.
“As a leader, you have to go out there and try to maintain a positive culture in a time when nobody has the answer for things,” he said. “It was the most challenging time in my time in a leadership role.”
During the early phase of the pandemic, Wilkerson said one decision would be made and by the next day it would have to be altered because of changing information about COVID.
His staff went though a lot during that time, everyone’s life completely changed at work and at home and they had to balance stability with patient care.
“I’m proud of what they did,” Wilkerson said.
Kara Smith, director of surgical services, said Wilkerson is a great member of the nursing leadership team.
“He is an inspiration to us all, always smiling, listening, assisting and challenges us to find solutions and the positive aspect in every situation,” Smith said. “He makes a difference everyday for everyone he touches as a leader, a nurse and a friend.”
Through the COVID crisis, seeing those who report to him power through the unknown and come out of the end of it with a desire to continue to deliver care is what he said helped him through it.
“Watching people maintain a positive attitude through all this was cool to see,” he said.
That positive approach might have been emulated from his leadership.
“Jamie is what a great leader looks like, always positive and making a difference in people’s lives,” Sandy Peace, director of inpatient medical services, said.
“He is a mentor and role model to many,” Peace said. “Every action or decision Jamie makes, he always keeps the patient at the forefront.”
Outside of work, Wilkerson owns a 60-acre farm, where he spends a lot of time hunting.
Since he was 18, he’s taken kids on a turkey hunt each year.
“Your giving these kids something that stays with them,” he said of the hunting trips. “Instead of running around and getting into mischief you are focused on hunting.”
Most recently, Wilkerson and his wife Ashleigh entered parenthood. He has a 9-month-old daughter named Tinsley.