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VUAH memorial service to remember patients, families

Nov. 12, 2020, 8:22 AM

The Rev. Ian Cullen, MDiv, left, Samantha Osborne, PA, Jessica Bowman Williams, RN, CCRN, and Casey Lary, RN, hold signs remembering and honoring patients who have died. VUMC employees will hold similar signs during part of a special virtual event called “VUMC Remembers” on Nov. 22.
The Rev. Ian Cullen, MDiv, left, Samantha Osborne, PA, Jessica Bowman Williams, RN, CCRN, and Casey Lary, RN, hold signs remembering and honoring patients who have died. VUMC employees will hold similar signs during part of a special virtual event called “VUMC Remembers” on Nov. 22. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

by Matt Batcheldor

In a first-of-its-kind event, Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital will hold a virtual memorial service to remember patients who have died in its care as well as their families and caregivers.

Families and Vanderbilt University Medical Center employees are invited to join “VUMC Remembers,” which will be held at 3 p.m. on Nov. 22. For more information, go to vumcremembers.com.

The VUMC Bereavement Committee is organizing the town-hall style event, which will include speakers from different hospital departments, a reading of loved ones names and special music. Staff from around the hospital will share stories about how patients at the end of life have powerfully impacted them. For the program flyer, many shared photos of themselves holding signs with sentiments such as “You were important to me.”

“So much of what we are as care providers and as care professionals and as people is because of the experiences that we’ve had with our patients,” said the Rev. Ian Cullen, MDiv, Palliative Care Chaplain for VUMC. “We remember them. The purpose of this service is to say I remember you, my patient. This hospital remembers you and we’re better because of you.”

Suzanne Ezell knows how that feels. She became president of the adult hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Council after her daughter died in the Medical Intensive Care Unit.

“Our tsunami of grief was shared by the attentive care of the nurses and doctors that surrounded us,” said Ezell, who also volunteers on the Bereavement Committee. “Later, we got a letter signed by all the staff saying that their thoughts and prayers were still with us. Helping family members deal with grief is certainly a big part of the total healing package. This memorial service will be like a warm hug to families who have lost loved ones at Vanderbilt.”

Cullen said the ceremony was initially planned to be in-person but was moved to a virtual platform because of COVID-19. The Bereavement Committee plans to hold virtual ceremonies going forward on a yearly, if not twice-yearly basis. Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has hosted a similar ceremony, Time for Remembering, yearly since 1998.

Another organizer, Jessica Bowman Williams, RN, CCRN, program coordinator in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, said planning the ceremony has been a team effort from around the hospital. She welcomes the opportunity to honor patients.

“I have always said that the biggest honor as a nurse is to be there,” she said. “I’ve been there at births and I’ve been in a lot of situations when patients die. To be able to be there for them at the bedside and for their family is the biggest honor for me. We do some incredible things for our patients, but it pales in comparison to what they do for us as clinicians, even in their passing.”

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