Jennifer Isaacson’s 13-year-old daughter Emma has Down syndrome, loves acting and “High School Musical.”
Isaacson’s 12-year-old son Josh is into robotics and plays trombone in the Signal Mountain Middle School band.
Her 8-year-old son Jake loves soccer and Pokemon. Five-year-old Lincoln just started kindergarten.
Oh yeah, Isaacson also has been enrolled in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing for the last four years and will earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing during December commencement ceremonies.
“There’s no normal day,” she said with a laugh.
She’ll stay busy after graduation. She has a full-time job as a nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit lined up at Erlanger Hospital. The job relates back to her family.
“Emma required open-heart surgery when she was 1, and cardiac ICU nurses saved our lives and saved Emma’s. That’s where I was introduced to cardiac and have loved it ever since,” said Isaacson, who graduated from Soddy Daisy High School in 2001.
Dr. Rachel Nall, clinical assistant professor in the UTC School of Nursing, described Isaacson as “an example of motivation and perseverance.”
“Throughout her time in her nursing program, she has been focused on learning all that she can about the nursing profession and the opportunities nursing offers to people of all ages,” Nall said.
“She truly wants to be the best nurse she can be and care for patients.”
Jason Peter, Mary B. Jackson assistant professor in the School of Nursing, said Isaacson is “one of the most determined and motivated individuals I have come across in my nursing education career.
“Patients and peers alike are overwhelmed by her fantastic capabilities and personality,” he said.
Isaacson attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in audiology and speech pathology in 2005. At BYU, she met her Seattle-native husband, Jason.
In 2005, the couple moved to Knoxville for graduate work at the University of Tennessee. She earned a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, while Jason earned a law degree in 2007. He is now an attorney with Chattanooga law firm Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams.
Getting the family up and out the door each weekday morning is a team effort, she said.
“We have a good system where I do food and backpacks, and he does clothes and shoes and hair,” she said. “Then we get them out and, yeah, it’s just different depending on the day. We work together for medical appointments, for robotics club, for soccer clubs. We just go back and forth.”
For the last 10-plus years, she has worked full-time as a licensed speech therapist, but her tightly packed schedule has forced her to cut back.
“I really loved it, and there’s such a great need for the area, but now I’m more consulting and helping parents move in the right direction because, obviously, I have a big heart for families with special needs,” she said.
Isaacson hopes to return to UTC’s School of Nursing once she’s settled into her work in the Erlanger cardiac ICU. Her ultimate goal, she said, is to be a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) in general surgery operating rooms.
“I love the complex thinking that comes along with CRNA. It’s a lot of calculations and problem-solving and deep cognitive thinking,” Isaacson said.
Nall, director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at UTC, has no doubt Isaacson will succeed.
“I’m proud of her for wanting to continue furthering her nursing education after she earns her BSN,” she said, “and I have no doubt whatever she dedicates herself to, she will accomplish.”