August 14, 2018

Patty Hofstetter came to Vanderbilt as a teenager. She never left — until now.

A conversation with the 41-year veteran nurse upon her retirement.

Patty Hofstetter, RN, at her retirement reception. Photo by Joe Howell

Photo by Joe Howell

Patty Hofstetter, BSN, RN, CPHQ, recently retired as Senior Quality and Safety Advisor for VUMC after 41 years as a nurse. She came to Vanderbilt as a teenager and never left. When she started as a nurse in 1977, there were only two Medical Center buildings – the old Vanderbilt University Hospital (now Medical Center North) and Light Hall. 

When did you first decide you wanted to be a nurse?

I was in high school and my brother was in medical school at the time. He would come back home with all these really neat stories. I’m thinking, “You know, I might want to be a nurse.” I said, well, let me be a candy striper. Let me see what that’s like. So I came here, and I loved it.

What brought you to work at Vanderbilt?

I’m from Nashville, and most of my family attended Vanderbilt University. This is where we all went. It was sort of a given. You know, they have a really good nursing school here. Why go anywhere else?

Well-wishers surround Patty Hofstetter at her reception. Photo by Joe Howell

What areas of Vanderbilt have you worked in?

When I graduated I went to a surgical floor (in the old Vanderbilt University Hospital, currently Medical Center North), then I went to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Cardiac Recovery. I was a research nurse for several years and I worked with the arrhythmia team. From there, I went to clinic administration and to Quality, Safety and Risk Prevention.

What has been your biggest joy as a nurse?

There’s really not one, because in every area that I’ve gone, there have been really good things. I remember when I first graduated from nursing school and we would go out as a team and have a wonderful time. I remember when we moved all the patients over with the National Guard to the new hospital. I watched all the buildings being built on campus, which was fun.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The surveys. I think what I will always remember 2008, when we had The Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Food and Drug Administration – everybody you could think of was here, surveying.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to work in the garden. I love to knit. I love being with family (husband, Bill, and daughter, Mary Katherine) and hiking. I have five brothers and sisters who all live here. Mary Katherine is in medical school at University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.n