Our Stories

Propelling Her Career (and Launching a Venture)

Nurse anesthetist equips herself for management role and mortgage company

Kristen Kenney

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2021

Kristen Kenney is more than a practicing registered nurse anesthetist. She is a strategic member of the CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) leadership team, with wide-ranging responsibilities for managing day-to-day staffing, scheduling, and operations for her medical group at a major Nashville hospital. She also helps develop and implement projects to enhance operations; works with hospital administrators to optimize patient care; and assists in the clinical development of nurse anesthetist students.

As Kristen’s role evolved to add managerial duties to her clinical ones, she decided to return to school for her MBA. “It was critical that I provide a perspective bridging the gap between the provision of anesthesia and the business of anesthesia,” she says.

She had an additional reason for seeking an advanced business degree. Channeling their entrepreneurial spirit, Kristen and her husband had long cherished an ambition of opening their own mortgage company. Combining his expertise in the mortgage industry with her newly gained business skills, she could serve as a partner in opening and operating the company.

Kristen was drawn to what she describes as Vanderbilt’s “exceptional reputation and network.” Just as much, she believed the C-team structure within the program would be invaluable. “As someone whose background was squarely in healthcare and science,” she says, “I knew there was significant learning that would come from the experiences of my colleagues in different industries and positions within their company. By organizing the class into C-teams, I knew I would work closely with people whose experiences were different from mine, and this would allow me to learn from them outside the structured curriculum.”

She credits the C-team experience with teaching her how to efficiently manage meetings; how and when to delegate assignments; and how to create and maintain accountability within a team. Since she served in the CEO role for her team’s “Launching the Venture” projects, Kristen says, “these skills were put to the test, and I was able to gain valuable feedback from the team.”

As a result, she adds, “I have learned to be a better leader. If you cannot lead your team, no matter how large or small, you will not be successful. The skills required to lead are honed throughout this program.”

She began seeing the program’s benefits even before she completed her degree. “The knowledge gained from day one allowed me to improve my team and implement change” within her anesthesia group, Kristen says. And drawing on her new abilities, she developed the business plan for launching her own family venture: with her husband, she opened Nashville Mortgage Company in October 2020.

I have learned to be a better leader. The skills required to lead are honed throughout this program.