Exceeding Expectations at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Of all the places to encounter exceptional Guest Experiences, the last place I expected to find them was in the Emergency Department of a hospital at 1 AM in the morning.

But then, this was no ordinary hospital experience, because it was no ordinary hospital.

First, the backstory…

One week ago my mother experienced some medical problems requiring her to go to her local community hospital. After a couple of days, she was well enough to go home – or so she thought. Within an hour of being in her apartment, she was ill enough that the staff sent her back to the hospital. Additional tests the next day uncovered some new problems, so she was admitted into ICU and I began the 7 hour drive to be with her.

Arriving at the hospital, she seemed to be resting fine. After several hours of visiting, I left her in the capable hands of the staff and continued on my journey, another hour’s drive to visit my wife and her father, who coincidently was in another hospital for some surgery that had been scheduled for a month. After a couple of hour’s visit, my wife and I drove to her parent’s house to spend the night.

After being there for less than 10 minutes, I received a call from the ICU staff at my mother’s hospital, requesting that I come as soon as I could – some delayed tests had the doctors concerned, and they needed to discuss some treatment options.

It took just a few minutes to determine that the local hospital did not have the capability for the tests needed, nor the type of surgeon available should certain conditions be discovered by the tests. We quickly made the decision to transfer my mother to another hospital.

And that’s where I encountered an exceptional experience over the next three days – at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.


From her admission just after midnight Friday 8/1 all the way through the Emergency Department, Intensive Care and then Step Down Care, through her discharge Sunday 8/3, she received care that exceeded my expectations.

In particular, Yana, a nurse on the 9th floor Step Down Unit, totally amazed me with her attention not only to my mother’s immediate medical concerns but also to her overall mental and emotional well-being. Yana exhibited all the skills one would expect of a skilled nurse, but it did not take me long to realize she was an exceptional nurse who was demonstrating personal individual characteristics that had been well-honed through a systematic cultural emphasis on the patient experience.

The entire VUMC staff – from doctors to residents to attending physicians to nurses to techs to nutrition to housekeeping – all demonstrated qualities that reflected values beyond their job description, a trait that is not often seen in our busy society.

I can state that unequivocally because my vocation and passion revolves a great extent around Guest Services, and I truly saw them at work over the past few days. These were not just surface level, but ingrained throughout the entire system at VUMC.

As one trained to note such values, I was curious about their origin, and spent part of my time during my mother’s hospital stay learning what was behind the unique experience I was observing.

Regarding my comment above about “exceeding expectations” I would note that while my primary focus is on Guest Experiences in churches across the U.S., part of my research has included health care facilities.

Remember also my opening paragraphs above: through an unusual set of circumstances not only did my mother spend 2 days, 2 different times last week in one hospital, my father-in-law was in another hospital. So I had experienced 3 hospitals in one week, both first-hand and through the observations and comments of my wife (who is also well-versed in Guest Services, as the Senior Property Manager of retail properties in NC, SC, and MD, totaling 1.7 million square feet).

It was very evident to us:

The patient experience at Vanderbilt Medical Center is exceptional in every way imaginable.

Now to find out why…

Next: The Inside-Out Journey of Vanderbilt University Medical Center to Exceptional Patient Care


One thought on “Exceeding Expectations at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

  1. Hi. I am the social media director at VUMC and I just wanted to thank you for sharing these reflections. I have shared the post with our patient experience team and we’ll make sure that the managers of the units and departments you mentioned (as well as Yana) know that they made a positive difference in the experience your mom and family had with us. Let me know if there is anything else we can do for you or your mom. Thank you for trusting us with her care! – Cynthia

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