Marilyn Dubree, longtime leader of nursing at Vanderbilt, to retire

Sep 17, 2023 at 11:24 pm by Staff


By Matt Batcheldor

After a distinguished career at Vanderbilt University Medical Center promoting excellence in nursing practice, Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, is retiring from her role as executive chief nursing officer.

Dubree will remain in her position while a nationwide search for her successor is underway and plans to remain at VUMC in a part-time role afterward.

Since arriving at VUMC in 1976, Dubree has risen through the ranks from clinical nurse specialist and nursing instructor to her current role as executive chief nursing officer, a title she has held since 2007. Prior to that, she was chief nursing officer of Vanderbilt Hospitals and Clinics since 1994.

Dubree came to Nashville to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and has maintained ties to the institution since, serving as assistant professor, assistant dean for clinical practice and, currently, senior associate dean for clinical practice.

Dubree has overseen the tremendous growth of VUMC’s nursing team, which has expanded to more than 9,000 nurses on the main campus, the three community hospitals and outpatient clinics throughout Tennessee and in surrounding states. Her accomplishments over the years have been many, both at VUMC and in the community.

“In her role as executive chief nursing officer,” said C. Wright Pinson, MD, MBA, Deputy CEO and Chief Health system Officer, “Marilyn has provided exceptional leadership, ensuring that our VUMC nurses perform at the very top of their licenses. It is because of her dedication that the Medical Center has been continually recognized as being among the best nursing organizations in the country. Marilyn has not only built a legacy of service, but she has become a very good friend to many. We look forward to more important contributions as she transitions to her next role at VUMC.”

Under her leadership, VUMC has obtained four successive Magnet designations from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the highest honor an organization can receive for the provision of nursing care and interprofessional collaboration. The latest Magnet designation, received in November 2022, will be recognized at the ANCC’s annual Magnet conference in October.

Dubree said she is proud of the work she has done to promote Shared Governance, a process which empowers nurses with shared decision-making between nurses and nurse leaders, to participate in developing the guidelines that govern their nursing practice. Vanderbilt was among the first hospitals in the country to create a Shared Governance process, and Dubree was there at the inception with her friend and colleague Adrienne Ames, MSN, who was associate director of nursing in 1980, under the leadership of director of Nursing Rosamond Gabrielson. She is proud of VUMC’s past and excited about its future.

“Looking forward, I’m proud of the work that we’ve started around diversity, inclusion and equity,” she said. “We have made an intentional commitment to have a staff that is truly inclusive and reflective of the patients and families we have the privilege to serve. I am excited to see this work continue.”

Dubree has also made contributions to the community by participation on the Renewal House board of directors, Leadership Nashville, the Middle Tennessee chapter of American Heart Association, the Tennessee Board of Nursing, Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee and the American Cancer Society, to name a few.

Dubree has been inducted into two prestigious academies in recognition of her pursuit of excellence in nursing and serving as a role model for other women. In 2016, she was inducted into the YWCA’s Academy for Women of Achievement and in 2022, as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

“Since my first introduction to Vanderbilt, through the School of Nursing and the Medical Center, one constant has been the amazing environment of people who are collaborative and dedicated to the work that they’re doing,” she said. “I experienced that in 1976 and continue to feel it today. That Vanderbilt spirit motivated me to stay here because it’s a great place to work, an environment where learning is an essential part of every day. Working with a multidisciplinary team challenged me to become the best I could be.”

In 1982, Dubree was named associate director of Surgical Nursing, and she became director of Operational Improvement in 1989, preceding her role as chief nursing officer.

Over the years, Dubree has become known for her boundless energy, approachability, devotion to the needs of nurses from the bedside out, and her emphasis on patient-and-family-centered care. She particularly values relationships and works to know people on a personal level, remembering names and family members.

“I have a deep appreciation for collaboration,” she said. “I am incredibly committed to my relationships and partnerships with colleagues and physicians. We have accomplished great things together, and I look forward to continuing those collaborations in my new role.”

A search committee is being organized under the executive sponsorship of C. Wright Pinson, MD, MBA, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer and Pamela R. Jeffries PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH, Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. The search committee will include staff nurses, nurse leaders, physician leaders and key stakeholders.

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