Balance of Work and Play

“Vanderbilt chose me,” says Leslie Jeter, BSN’86, DNP, CRNA. In high school, she spent “career week” in the operating room at a local community hospital. A certified registered nurse anesthetist took Jeter under her wing and let her squeeze an ambu bag (a manual resuscitator), and Jeter watched in awe as the patient’s chest rose.

“Holding a patient’s life in my hands was powerful and unforgettable,” Jeter says.

Leslie Jeter

Born and raised in the Southeast, Jeter wanted to stay regional for college. Vanderbilt was the right fit for her. She applied early decision and was accepted into Vanderbilt’s bachelor of science in nursing program.

Jeter says she cherished her four years at Vanderbilt School of Nursing, spending long days in the anatomy lab, hanging out with friends at Rand Hall and attending football games. VUSN was small and intimate; she knew her professors and classmates well. She thrived academically, and the rigorous curriculum prepared her for graduate school and a health care career.   

After receiving her BSN from Vanderbilt, she worked in a neonatal ICU at a children’s hospital for one year before attending Virginia Commonwealth University, where she received a master of science in nurse anesthesia. Later in her career, Jeter earned a doctorate in nursing practice from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University.

Leadership in Her Profession and for Equity

Jeter has practiced in Georgia as a CRNA in various clinical settings for 30 years. She was active with the Georgia Association of Nurse Anesthetists (GANA) and served three terms as their president.

As a trustee at the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) Foundation, Jeter chaired the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force to seek solutions and initiatives to diversify the nurse anesthesia profession. For the past seven years, she has served as a trustee of the AANA Foundation.

Jeter’s father instilled in her the importance of philanthropy at a young age, she says. When VUSN Dean Pamela Jeffries, PhD, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH, shared about the school’s new Academy for Diverse Emerging Nurse Leaders, Jeter wanted to help. She funded the initiative by underwriting funding for several attendees in the inaugural academy, which participants have said changed their lives (see article on p. 14).

Holding a patient’s life in my hands was powerful and unforgettable.”—Leslie Jeter

Additionally, as part of her estate planning, she bequeathed to VUSN two endowed scholarships, one in her name and the other honoring her mother, Elizabeth Burt Jeter. Her mother has always supported her decision to pursue nursing and nurse anesthesia, Jeter says. She established the scholarships to give students the same opportunities she had to attend nursing school and pursue their dreams.

Work Hard, Play Well

Since 2019, Jeter has been a senior clinical instructor at Emory School of Nursing, teaching doctor of nursing practice project courses and master’s-prepared nursing students. She serves on the Infection Control Advisory Panel and as a subject matter expert at Emory for a cooperative grant with the CDC on infection prevention and control. She teaches a DNP project course remotely for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and co-authored a book chapter and articles on infection control.

Jeter loves scuba diving with her husband, Richard Karol, all over the world. They travel extensively, including taking six trips with the Vanderbilt Alumni Travel Program. In her rare spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Vanderbilt played a vital role in helping to shape Jeter into the person she is today, she says. Learning to balance a strong work ethic with her social life was one of the most valuable lessons she learned at Vanderbilt.

Jeter views her decision to include VUSN in her estate planning through a bifocal lens that comprises her education and teaching experiences at Emory’s School of Nursing and her first-hand knowledge of the caliber and potential of VUSN students. Jeter’s investment in the future of VUSN ensures scholarships are available to students in need.

“The future is indeed bright!” Jeter exclaims. “I encourage others to give back to Vanderbilt, knowing that you will make a difference in a student’s life and education. It is one of the best feelings there is.”