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VUMC Remembers honors patients, families, staff

Dec. 8, 2022, 8:29 AM

The VUMC Remembers virtual memorial service features staff testimonials of patients.
The VUMC Remembers virtual memorial service features staff testimonials of patients.

by Matt Batcheldor

For the third year, Vanderbilt Health held “VUMC Remembers,” a special virtual memorial service to remember patients who have died as well as their families and caregivers. The Vanderbilt community and the public are invited to watch the approximately 30-minute ceremony, which is now posted at

The Bereavement Committee for Vanderbilt University Hospital (VUH) and Vanderbilt Health organized the virtual event, which honors patients who received care in inpatient settings and in clinics around the region during the last year. Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has hosted a similar ceremony, Time for Remembering, yearly since 1998.

Terrell Smith, MSN, RN, director of Patient and Family Engagement, said the virtual service started three years ago to acknowledge patients who died of COVID-19 at a time when families couldn’t visit their loved one in person. But the program quickly expanded to honor all who died in the care of VUH. It’s also an opportunity for VUMC staff who cared for patients and families to reflect on how much they meant to them.

“You get attached to your patients,” Smith said. “It’s a big deal when you lose a patient. It’s a big deal when you’ve been taking care of a patient for weeks. You know their children’s names. It’s a time for our staff, too, to remember.”

Though the event began as virtual by necessity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is continuing as virtual even as the pandemic subsides because the video format is such a good way to reach families spread throughout the country, Smith said. People can stream the program at their convenience over the next year.

This year’s VUMC Remembers program features speakers from different hospital departments, staff testimonials of patients at the end of their lives, a reading of loved ones’ names and special music.

Comments include a welcome from Shon Dwyer, MBA, RN, President of VUH, who recalls a special patient during her time as a pediatric nurse whose memory stays with her. Arielle Silverman shares her experience as a child life specialist who works in the adult hospital, embossing handprints of a dying loved one’s hands as a way of remembering.

“We remember every single person that we work with, and they’re not just like another patient to us,” she said. “We really do remember them.”

Sofia Hernandez, a medical interpreter, shares about how close she becomes to families as she translates from Spanish to English and vice versa. And the Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, offers a reflection on grief and healing.

A moving photo montage of staff holding signs with sentiments such as “You were important to me” is paired with music by Paul Raymond, MSN, RN, Palliative Care Unit manager, and singer-songwriter and nurse Megan Palmer, RN.

Lastly, the Rev. Beth Duke, VUMC staff chaplain, offers a benediction and reflection on the registered names. Marcina Clark provides additional music.

Thousands of families were invited to share the name of their loved ones, which appear on the screen at the end of the program. In addition, about 250 people shared stories of their loved ones, not all of which could appear in the program, but will be treasured and archived.

“It’s helping them establish the legacy of this person and what they meant to so many,” said the Rev. Ian Cullen, MDiv, Palliative Care chaplain for VUMC and co-chair of the Bereavement Committee.

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