A Calming, Committed Presence: Jeff Wilson celebrates 45 years in Respiratory Care

A lot can change in 45 years, but the important things remain the same.  

For the Respiratory Care department, that constant is Jeff Wilson. He is one of its supervisors, who came to department as a respiratory therapist in 1978. Colleagues describe him as having strong ethics, being dependable and holding a steadfast commitment to the profession of respiratory care.

Jeff’s colleagues say collaboration is a hallmark of his leadership style. “Jeff is very dedicated, hard-working, always calm, handles everything by the book and treats everyone equally,” said Michelle Hamric, another supervisor in the department. Michelle has worked with him for 21 years — 17 as a staff member and four as a fellow supervisor.

“He has always been very helpful to me when I was in staffing and then when I became supervisor.  He has a lot of knowledge to share,” she added.

He began his career at VUMC as a respiratory therapist and was quickly moved into a supervisory role. A promotion he is still proud of until this day. A role that has suited him well over the years. Being a frontline leader, he has helped to develop and mentor many respiratory therapists.

He’s proud to tell people he works at Vanderbilt University Medical Center because of the organization’s outstanding reputation in healthcare and as an employer. A reputation he and all our honorees helped build. 

A witness to respiratory care transformation

During his tenure, he has witnessed a lot of change and history here at VUMC. The most obvious one is the physical structure of main campus. The most important one he pointed out is the culture of caring built by VUMC “for its patients, their families and the employees” with Credo behaviors guiding him along the way.

The field of respiratory care also has progressed. Going from what was considered practically non-essential to an intricate and vital part of the ICU, rapid response, and STAT teams. In the beginning, respiratory therapists only followed the doctors’ orders. Now, they have protocols in place that allows them to examine, evaluate and place orders independently.

“Jeff’s historical enterprise knowledge brings a unique balance and perspective in meeting the teams’ goals within the 24/7/365 demands of caring for the critically ill patient,” said Roger Richardson, a manager in the department. “He builds on past success but accepts improving the outcomes as we integrate technology and improved science into care plans and protocols.”

Another colleague comments: “I greatly appreciate his wealth of knowledge and often seek his advice,” said Craig Rooks, senior director, Respiratory Care. Jeff was his direct leader when Craig worked as a bedside clinician 20-years ago.

Workday starts before sunrise

A day in his life, starts around 4:30 a.m. when he reviews staffing and the workload for the day. Colleagues know he is there due the smell of fresh coffee coming from the breakroom.

The team takes care of patients from Vanderbilt University Hospital, Medical Center East, Medical Center North and the Vanderbilt Clinic.

From there, he assigns staff to the intensive care units, general care floors and emergency department according to the workload. The goal is to have a respiratory therapist assigned to every patient with a respiratory care order. After assignments are completed, he checks on the staff throughout the day and helps when needed. There is also Kronos, Epic and VandyWorks to review daily.

Simple things bring great joy

His greatest accomplishments in life boil down to the simple things: “being married to my wonderful wife for 38 years (3 children and 7 grandchildren),” completing two full marathons and multiple half marathons, and hiking Yellowstone’s Half Dome twice.

“The one thing that I enjoy the most about working for VUMC is the people,” Jeff said. “Our department has always had great leadership and a great staff to work with.”