December 6, 2018

VUMC Nursing Staff Bylaws highlight latest, best practices

More than 150 nurses from Vanderbilt University Medical Center convened in Langford Auditorium recently for the biennial Nursing Staff Bylaws Convention.

More than 150 VUMC nurses convened in Langford Auditorium on Nov. 14 for the biennial Nursing Staff Bylaws Convention. (photo by Susan Urmy)

More than 150 nurses from Vanderbilt University Medical Center convened in Langford Auditorium recently for the biennial Nursing Staff Bylaws Convention.

The convention is an opportunity for VUMC nurses to make shared decisions in updating the document that governs how they do their daily work and practice. Nurses nominate the delegates who gather every two years to approve changes to the bylaws. Many of those same delegates worked for hours at a retreat in July to draft proposed revisions.

“This is a document about the future,” said Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Executive Chief Nursing Officer. “It reflects how our organization is evolving.”

The delegates at the retreat were part of history. VUMC has had nursing bylaws since 1980, and has held conventions during even-numbered years in recent history. The last convention was held in 2016.

In fact, Vanderbilt was among the first medical facilities in the country to have bylaws.

Adrienne Ames, MSN, who was associate director of nursing in 1980, spearheaded the creation of the bylaws with associate director Frances Carson, under the leadership of director of Nursing Rosamond Gabrielson.

Because physicians had bylaws at the time, it was determined that nurses should have them as well, Ames said recently. She worked with nursing leadership and every unit throughout the hospital to make it possible.

The document she helped create in 1980 still stands today, though constantly revised to keep up with the times.

The most recent changes to the bylaws included input from delegates representing VUMC inpatient units, clinics and specialties, as well as the Bylaw Task Force, which is co-chaired by Kathy Moss, MSN, MBA, RN, and Jeremy Crawford, RN. This year’s parliamentarian was Rachel Kromer, MSN, RN.

The 2018 convention approved 10 editorial amendments and four substantive amendments that were on the agenda, in addition to one amendment that was introduced on the convention floor.

Editorial amendments are typically updates to terminology and titles without changing meaning, while substantive amendments change the meaning or function of the bylaws.

“We are fortunate at VUMC to have nursing bylaws that govern our practice and shared governance structure,” said Erin Tickle, MMHC, BSN, RN, director of Shared Governance. “Every nurse has a voice, and we made some great strides in updating and changing our bylaws to fit our evolving practice and the growing Medical Center this year.”

Substantive amendments comprised the following topics:

  • Clarifying language that staff members are active participants in decision making
  • Eliminating the Nursing Administration Board at the request of its leadership, as its duties have been distributed to other boards
  • Removing the Manager Council and Case Manager Council in order to reflect changes in the reporting structure

Kathie Krause, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, proposed a floor amendment to add the title of Vice President of Nursing to a membership list due to the expansion in leadership of the Adult Ambulatory area. The amendment was unanimously approved.

For additional information and bylaws resources, visit

The Bylaws Task Force will meet soon to begin implementing the changes.