Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt at Williamson Medical Center

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Keen attention to child-friendly details are everywhere throughout the brand-new Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt at Williamson Medical Center. Now open, the gorgeous hospital doesn’t feel like a hospital — and that, they say, is the whole idea.

It was the longest drive of our lives: My 7-year-old daughter had accidentally careened down our steep hill on her bike, busting open her chin clear down to the white bone below. My husband had come running, carrying her up the hill to our car, screaming at me to get the keys. I sped to Vanderbilt Children’s, in downtown Nashville, while he held our sobbing child on his lap, pressing a blood-soaked towel to her chin. Getting there felt like hours.

Moments like that — a parent’s nightmare — can come along in a lifetime. Wanting the best, we could only think, “Vanderbilt,” but it was a good 30 minutes away. Now though, a new Vanderbilt Children’s is in Franklin, a mere 10 minutes from our home. Hopefully we won’t see anymore bike accidents — but if we do — Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt at Williamson Medical Center is a peaceful state-of-the-art dedicated facility far from the busy goings-on of downtown Nashville.

The continuing growth of Williamson County made the addition of the new children’s hospital a natural one. But key decisions related to the needs of the littlest patients would need to be made. That job — a self-described labor of love — fell to Chief Operating Officer Julie Miller and Chief Nursing Officer Lori Orme. With painstaking care, the two combed over details children and parents might appreciate: customizeable lights for patient rooms, walls made just for scribbling and the color of the bumpers for the stretchers.

They sought to bring the serenity of Williamson County’s landscape indoors and did so: stone, wood and natural colors, and always with children in mind. There were more meetings than they can count.

“What was good is,” Miller says, “we were able to utilize not only the nursing side and thinking about that but also operations,” she adds. “We had great multi disciplinary — different committees —  from design to planning to equipment to art and more.”

The children’s hospital — next door and attached to Williamson Medical Center (WMC) — has its own dedicated emergency department on the first floor and 12 inpatient beds on the third. The second floor’s main entrance holds the Atrium — a comfortable lounge area with Wifi and a sculpture of kids playing “Marco Polo.” The Atrium reflects Main Street in Franklin — a home away from home.

But treating children isn’t anything new for WMC; they’ve been doing it for years.

“We’ve always treated the itty-bitties,” says Orme. “It’s the inpatient we haven’t had, but it’s not like we haven’t been doing a lot of this stuff.”

Miller and Orme say WMC’s culture of care will transfer well to the children’s hospital.

“It is like family here,” says Miller. “Now we have the ability to have this affiliation with Monroe Carell and utilize some of their protocols and quality and those type of things, but we were able to still make this ours — with a Williamson County feel.”

Partnering With Vandy

Peace of mind is everything for parents when a child needs medical care — and parents want only the best for their kids.

“This is not Monroe Carell ‘like,’” Orme says. “It is truly the same quality. You should not receive any difference in quality whether you go downtown or come here. We’ve just added dedicated space,” she adds. Plus a small contingency of key Vanderbilt employees to smooth the transition and need: A director of nursing, a child life specialist, an educator and, through a professional service agreement, emergency room management and physicians.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent are our staff,” says Orme. While the new hospital doesn’t have pediatric cardiologists, neurologists and other subspecialties, Vanderbilt emergency room physicians will ensure relatively seamless transfers to downtown should they be necessary for a child.

More Williamson, Less Hospital

From the second floor main entrance to the third floor patient rooms, evidence of Williamson County is everywhere — it doesn’t feel much like a hospital at all. Walk the halls to see a replicated Franklin Trolley, beautiful murals, soothing colors. Child patient rooms are spacious, with children’s art on the walls and plenty of space for Mom and Dad to spend the night. Rooms are meant to be safe havens.

“You want the child’s room to be their safe place,” says Miller. “So we have a procedure room, where if they need to have an IV you take them (in a wagon if they’re small enough for one), then take them back to their room,” she adds. Orme adds, “And so every time someone walks into their room, the child doesn’t have to think, ‘OK, now they’re going to hurt me.’”

Open for Business

It’s July, and the hospital is open with only the question of volume remaining: In 2011 (the most recent stats available), 3,386 kids from Williamson County went to Vanderbilt Children’s downtown ER. Will those numbers now be heading to Williamson? It remains to be seen. The new children’s hospital and emergency department have been doing dry runs and training for weeks, simulating care and procedure.

“We are ready,” Miller says. “We already have more than 6,500 coming through our ER now,” says Miller. “And it’s what the pediatricians have wanted,” she adds.

And parents have wanted it, too. Because if your child is sick or hurting, the last thing you want is limbo in your car for an agonizing drive that feels like forever.

Located at 4321 Carothers Pkwy., Franklin, learn more at 615-435-7800 or


Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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