Smith named CNO of Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton HospitalJun. 2, 2021, 2:10 PM
by Matt Batcheldor
Marilyn Smith, DNP, MSN, RN, had an incredible and unlikely journey to her role as Chief Nursing Officer of Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital.
Born and raised on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, she moved to New York City at the age of 20 and graduated from Lehman College in the Bronx, part of City University of New York, with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology and anthropology.
“Nursing is a second career for me,” Smith said. “I was a lab technician, and I used to visit nursing homes with my church group as a young person and saw my passion in helping the residents, feeding them, walking with them and talking with them and playing games with them. And that’s where it drew me to be a nurse.”
Four years after obtaining her initial degree, Smith received her nursing degree from the College of New Rochelle in New York. She spent the next 12 years as a psychiatric nurse working in New York. After moving to Georgia, Smith also worked as a medical-surgical nurse, a progressive care nurse and an emergency room nurse, where she was able to broaden her scope of practice.
Smith moved from Georgia to South Carolina, obtaining her master’s and doctorate degrees, before she and her husband, Delroy, settled in Tullahoma in 2019.
“It was actually what we were looking for — that family life, that country life,” she said. “If you want a country life and not the big city, this is it. It’s a friendly, family-oriented community.”
The Smiths have two sons: DJ, 24; and Dondre, 22; and daughter Madyson, 11.
Smith now supervises a dedicated staff of about 250 people at the 135-bed Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital, which VUMC acquired from subsidiaries of Community Health Systems Inc. (CHS) at the beginning of the year. Smith said she is excited to be part of Vanderbilt Health.
“To be a part of the Vanderbilt family means being able to provide high-quality care to patients, families and the communities that we serve,” she said. “It means being involved in an organization that is dedicated to its mission and vision as well as the well-being of its employees, with core values that include diversity, inclusion and professional development.”
Smith loves to brag on her fellow nurses, telling stories of their compassion. One nurse, whose husband is immunocompromised, still volunteered to work in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit when the pandemic began. She slept outside her house to protect her husband.
“She slept in a hammock for days to make sure that she doesn’t bring anything home, but at the same time, she wanted to make sure that she gets the opportunity to take care of these patients as well,” Smith said. “Nurses here are very caring. Some of them have been here for years. This is their home. They come in and make sure that they treat the patient as one of their family members, very attentive and very caring and listening. We have nurses who have been here 40 years, who start out here in their career and retire here as well.”
Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, said Smith is an exemplary leader.
“Marilyn is an experienced and capable leader and a great advocate for patients and families in Tullahoma,” Dubree said. “It is a pleasure to work with her as Vanderbilt expands its reach throughout the state.”