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VUMC Nursing Staff Bylaws guide way to latest, best practices

Nov. 29, 2022, 4:16 PM

Erin Tickle, RN, MMHC, DNP, and Roderick Armstrong, RN, MMHC, CPN, take part in the 2022 Nursing Staff Bylaws Convention.
Erin Tickle, RN, MMHC, DNP, and Roderick Armstrong, RN, MMHC, CPN, take part in the 2022 Nursing Staff Bylaws Convention. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Matt Batcheldor

More than 150 nurses from throughout Vanderbilt University Medical Center gathered over Zoom recently for the biennial Nursing Staff Bylaws Convention, the second to be held virtually.

The convention is an opportunity for VUMC nurses to participate in Shared Governance via the amendment of their Nursing Staff Bylaws, a document that governs how they do their daily work and practice. Delegates are appointed in each entity and gather every two years to approve changes to the bylaws. Any nurse can propose a change during the amendment submission period in the first half of the year. After being received and reviewed by the Bylaws Taskforce, delegates review all proposed changes to the bylaws via a virtual platform that is released during the summer.

“I think that it’s very impressive for an organization to have a process like this in place that includes our frontline nursing staff,” said Kevin Grimes, senior program manager for Shared Governance. “It’s not just leadership coming in and saying this is how things are going to be. Every individual in nursing has the opportunity to have a voice in how they practice their profession.”

Vanderbilt was among the first health care entities in the country to create bylaws. In 1980, Adrienne Ames, MSN, who was associate director of nursing, spearheaded the creation of the bylaws with associate director Frances Carson, under the leadership of director of nursing Rosamond Gabrielson.

VUMC has held conventions during even-numbered years in recent history. The last convention was held in 2020.

The previous convention was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was so successful that nurse leaders decided to hold this year’s convention virtually as well. The virtual format presents many advantages — it is more inclusive of nurses in community hospitals and clinics in Vanderbilt Health’s growing footprint and is more efficient and cost-effective.

“We found that it was much more successful,” said Erin Tickle, MMHC, RN, associate nurse executive for Nursing Strategy and System Integration. “Right after the last convention, we realized we were headed in the right direction to allow as many nurses to participate as possible.”

This year’s convention was the first to use an amended delegate structure, moving from a model akin to the House of Representatives to a Senate model. The model allows entities to have an equal number of delegates regardless of size. This is intended to give more equal representation to the pieces of the sprawling VUMC enterprise.

This year’s changes to the bylaws included input from delegates representing VUMC inpatient units, clinics and specialties, as well as the Bylaws Taskforce.  There are two main categories of amendments to the bylaws. Editorial amendments are updates to terminology and formatting without changing meaning, while substantive amendments change the meaning or function of the bylaws.

The 2022 convention delegates approved eight substantive amendments in addition to 12 editorial amendments that were on the agenda, as well as an amendment that was introduced on the virtual convention floor. Most of the amendments added formal language to the governing document promoting nursing diversity, equity and inclusion. Others changed titles and terminology to be inclusive of community hospitals Vanderbilt has acquired in recent years.

In her remarks to the convention, Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, said the bylaws represent a legacy of decades of Shared Governance work and thanked the delegates for their tireless efforts.

“For those of you who have never participated in the convention, I am grateful that you experienced it — not just as a transactional moment to vote, but as a representation of the nursing community coming together to lead its practice and to have agency over what we do,” she said.

The Bylaws Taskforce will meet soon to begin implementing the changes to the bylaws. For additional information and bylaws resources, visit

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