Volk, the associate chief nursing officer at the downtown campus, says ‘spirit of collaboration’ instrumental in downtown transition.

Kim Volk, MSN, RN, associate chief nursing officer at the downtown campus
Kim Volk, MSN, RN, associate chief nursing officer at the downtown campus

Kim Volk, associate chief nursing officer at the downtown campus, may be new to UI Health Care, but she isn’t new to nursing in Iowa City.

Prior to Mercy Iowa City’s transition to UI Health Care in January, Volk spent 29 years at Mercy Iowa City. She was most recently chief nursing officer and plays a fundamental role as the downtown campus continues to integrate within the UI Health Care structure. Recently, Volk shared more about her background, her thoughts on the transition, and her outlook for the future.

The transition happened almost three months ago, what were some of your first impressions as you began to settle into your role with UI Health Care?

While it has been a big lift, there have been so many positive interactions and a lot of really great opportunities for collaboration, it has been so encouraging. Everyone at the university has been kind, considerate, and supportive, and they’ve understood that those of us coming from Mercy had been through a few turbulent years. I feel we have been truly embraced as a part of the team.

From the start, we have begun learning from one another the ways we care for patients and run programs in the same way, and where there are differences. Some of the places we found differences were things like using different suppliers, equipment, and tools to assess patients. We also used different resource allocation models, which makes sense when you consider the size and scale of the university, and the fact that it is an academic medical center.

One of the things that has really helped with this is what we have dubbed “phone-a-friend.” Every team downtown has a designated counterpart at the university campus that can help answer questions about university process or philosophy of care. This spirit of collaboration has been instrumental in easing the transition.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities as a result of the transition?

We have great opportunities in learning how to operate as a system, and how to optimize both the university and downtown campuses (and North Liberty, when it opens) to continue our focus on quality patient care—providing the right care, at the right location, with the right providers, to smooth out capacity demand. This is where Epic is key and will allow us to optimize and direct patients to receive care where it makes the most sense.

Specifically, within nursing, I am excited about the opportunities we have to grow within our profession. There are more opportunities for nurses to become leaders or move to a broader range of practice areas. Through UI Hospitals & Clinics' ANCC Magnet Recognition Program®, I see opportunities for the downtown campus to also achieve Magnet designation, which will provide more resources through shared governance between all our locations.

Mercy Iowa City was a beloved community hospital with a 150-year legacy; have elements of that history emerged over the past two months of transition? How do you think it can be built upon?

There is no magical overnight change to how or why we do what we do. Those who worked for Mercy still have Mercy in our hearts, but also recognize how many more possibilities there are as a part of the larger university system. Being a part of UI Health Care also provides more stability, so we spend less time concerned about what may come and more time focusing on caring for our patients. At the end of the day, we have always served Johnson County and the surrounding community, and now we have the opportunity to provide care for the state, too, as a part of the university—that’s exciting.

Would you tell us a little more about you and your personal life?

I am married and have two grown sons and four grandchildren, all of whom live in the Iowa City area. Family is really important to us, so we spend a lot of time together! I grew up here, began my career at Mercy Iowa City as a nursing tech while I was in school, and when I graduated I accepted a cardiac unit staff nurse position. I have had great experiences and wonderful mentors and leaders along the way, thankfully.

In my free time, I enjoy camping, gardening, and doing anything outside. We have a three-year-old Boxer named Max, and a dozen chickens that we are learning to manage!