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State of Nursing address reviews remarkable year

Jun. 2, 2021, 2:13 PM

The stars were out for VUMC’s virtual State of Nursing address. Here, Garth Brooks, left, and Trisha Yearwood, second from right, appeared in a video message with nurses Lindsay Miller, MSN, RN, right, and Heather O’Dell, ANP.

by Matt Batcheldor

In her 2021 State of Nursing address, Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, looked back on an unprecedented year of nursing care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as the organization continued to grow.

This year’s event, held over Zoom on May 25, included recorded videos from three celebrity guests.

The address was part of VUMC’s ongoing recognition of National Nurses Week, which honors the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale. The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which it has extended through 2021, noted C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer, in his introductory remarks.

“As nurses, you have served as invaluable members of the health care team with your expert knowledge, your emotional investment and your dedication,” he said. “And I would say by all accounts you have faced the challenge with grace and courage.”

Dubree pointed out that one year ago, VUMC was just restarting elective procedures and inviting patients back in to outpatient clinics after the first wave of COVID-19 cases forced those services to pause for more than a month. Nurses were on the front lines of developing safety protocols to safely welcome back patients, and to prepare for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients. That surge didn’t happen immediately, but nurses were ready when it did, once over summer 2020 and a much larger one in winter 2020/2021.

“In the midst of a global public health crisis, you gave yourselves tirelessly to care for our patients,” Dubree said. “You continued to adapt, because we had to. There is an endless list of how you adapted. You created assessment centers in garages and created monoclonal antibody clinics in innovative space. You provided care and coordination by phone, in home visits and by telehealth. You served as family when patients’ family members could not be present.”

Dubree credited nurses for responding to changing guidance from the local, state and federal government that seemed to change by the day.

“You were amazing at how you caught that information, changed what needed to be changed, to do the very best to stay safe,” she said. “We all observed your flexibility and saw how hard you worked.”

Hope came in the form of the first COVID-19 vaccine, which VUMC began to distribute in December 2020. Shortly thereafter, VUMC grew again by purchasing the Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital and Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital in January 2021.

Dubree noted how so many individuals and groups in the Nashville community rallied around nurses to lift spirits and offer support. One initiative in particular was Gratitunes, an effort by dozens of musical artists to send songs of thanks to VUMC clinicians caring for COVID-19 patients.

One of those artists was Brad Paisley, who appeared live during last year’s virtual State of Nursing address to thank nurses for their incredible service. Paisley included footage from that Zoom session in his 2020 music video, “No I in Beer.”

“If this was on your bucket list, you made it,” Dubree said.

This year’s presentation featured recorded video shout-outs from Keith Urban, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

“We appreciate you so much,” Yearwood said. “Thank you for everything that you’ve done and been through over the past year-plus.”

Brooks added, “Let’s just put this in concert terms, OK? So, if we’re doing a concert right now, you guys have been the band, the crew, the truck drivers. You’ve done it all.”

“I just want to say a massive thank you to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center front-line health care workers,” Urban said. “You guys and girls are amazing.”

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