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Marlee Crankshaw retires after 40 years of service to Vanderbilt

Jan. 19, 2024, 2:51 PM

Marlee Crankshaw, center, with Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, left, and Gretchen McCullough, MSN, RN, NEA-BC. (photo by Erin O. Smith)
Marlee Crankshaw, center, with Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, left, and Gretchen McCullough, MSN, RN, NEA-BC. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

It’s been 40 years since Marlee Crankshaw first entered the doors of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Initially interested in pediatrics, she took the first job opening available in the Neonatology Intensive Care Unit.

It’s an area she committed her entire career to — rising through the ranks from a bedside nurse all the way to associate nursing officer of Neonatal Services at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

It’s an amazing feat for someone who had her mind set on graduating from high school, getting married, and becoming a stay-at-home mom.

The plan was working until her late husband became ill, prompting her to think about how she was going to care for herself and her four children.

“I needed a solid career path,” recalled Crankshaw. “I needed to find something that would sustain us for a long time. I figured I could always have a job as a nurse.”

She was right.

Soon after graduating from Tennessee State University with an associate degree in nursing, Crankshaw found herself in the nurse recruiter’s office in Medical Center North.

“I’ll admit, I took what I could to get my foot in the door and I never left it,” said Crankshaw, DNP, RN, CNML.

Until now.

Crankshaw retired at the end of December 2023. She knew it was her time.

“I can’t think of anything I would have done differently,” she said. “I kept telling myself that I wanted to be like Mary Tyler Moore — she left her show when it was in a good place. Now is my time. The teams are in a good place.”

Crankshaw said during her career at Monroe Carell she witnessed medicine evolve right before her eyes. She has marveled at the number of babies, tinier than anyone could imagine, who became miracles. Even the equipment, techniques and knowledge of caring for the tiniest patients have developed.

“Our acuity and volumes have changed significantly,” said Crankshaw, pausing. “We are now able to help babies who we would’ve never imagined we could assist when I first started. We have such good outcomes here.”

She has spent two decades helping mold the lives of people at Monroe Carell — from the tiniest patients as a bedside nurse to her staff and other nurses as a manager and director.

With retirement upon her, Crankshaw has a full slate of ideas of how she will fill her time, including restarting a hand casting business, spending time with her four children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren as well as taking a long-awaited trip along the Oregon Trail, a trek her great-grandmother took in a covered wagon.

“It will be very bittersweet for me to leave this place,” she said. “There is sadness, but I know there is so much good coming.”

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