Trans Peer/Buddy Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt Adult Inpatient and Outpatient Clinics, Vanderbilt Program for LGBTI Health

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is a comprehensive health care facility dedicated to patient care, research, and biomedical education. It has a reputation for excellence, and is a major patient referral center for the Mid-South. People throughout Tennessee and the southeast choose Vanderbilt for their health care needs, not only because of its excellence in medical science, but also because the faculty and staff are dedicated to treating patients with dignity and compassion. Vanderbilt's mission is to advance health and wellness through preeminent programs in patient care, education, and research.

Organizationally, Volunteer Services is part of the Department of Patient & Family Engagement. VUMC's Peer Programs, within Volunteer Services, provide support and information to patients and family members, supporting the overall goal of increasing patient satisfaction and providing excellence in health care.

VUMC has multiple peer volunteer programs. To learn more about the other VUMC peer programs, see the VUMC profile.

This profile is about the Peer/Buddy Peer program, a part of the Vanderbilt Program for LGBTI Health.

VUMC's Trans Peer/Buddy Program

VUMC's Trans Peer/Buddy Program started in 2014, to provide peer services for transgender and gender non-conforming patients. The Program for LGBTI Health at VUMC, in collaboration with the Volunteer Services, developed this program. Participants include students, clinicians, staff, and community members who care about health disparities among people who identify as LGBT or are affected by differences in sex development. The goal is to "increase access to care and improve health care outcomes for transgender people by providing support to transgender patients at VUMC." The goal is to empower the patient to make informed health care decisions, and to reduce the postponement of health care by transgendered people.


The peer volunteers go through the hospital Volunteer Program for "onboarding" which includes an application, interview, background check, immunizations/health screening, online hospital orientation, unit-specific training, and shadowing an existing volunteer. Initial on-boarding expenses for volunteers include background check, immunizations, and meals during training, all of which come out of the Volunteer Services Budget.

Recruitment and Responsibilities

The program recruits its own volunteers through referrals from staff, website recruitment, and word of mouth. Also patients and family members who received a service may later volunteer to "give back." Once recruited, all volunteers go through the regular volunteer orientation, and some training. The Trans Peer/Buddy volunteers receive 12 hours of training.

A "Volunteer Coordinator" supervises and assigns volunteers, based on the requests from clinical staff, patients, or family members.

Trans Peer/Buddy volunteers sign-up for 12-hour shifts to answer a phone line, provide support, and offer community resources to individuals. Peer volunteers will meet patients in the hospital setting or at their clinic/physician appointments. If the person calling on the telephone line needs medical attention, the volunteer will meet the patient in the Emergency Room. Transgendered individuals may put off health care due to discrimination or fear of discrimination. Emergent care is typically the first entrance into a health care facility for transgendered individuals. With prior notice, volunteers may also go with the patient to scheduled primary care or clinic appointments. The goal of this program is to empower the patient to make informed health care decisions and provide support to reduce delay in care.

Expectations of Volunteers

Volunteers in this program are expected to commit to attend the necessary onboarding and general training programs for VUMC volunteers and for those specific to the Trans Buddy Peer program. Other expectations include, but are not limited to, a commitment to work two "on-call" twelve hour shifts per month, and fulfilling the responsibilities of that shift work, which may include meeting patients at the emergency department and at other regularly scheduled appointments to provide logistical and emotional support, build rapport and work with patients to determine their desired outcomes, provide educational materials to providers and patients, and attend other necessary training meetings.

Program Size

The Trans Peer/Buddy currently has 24 peer volunteers.

Overall Peer Volunteer Organization

The Volunteer Services Department tracks the number of hours a volunteer provides and works with each program to obtain the number of patient interactions that occur or assignments made. Stories from volunteers help to understand and communicate the positive impact that these programs have on patients and family members. Each peer program conducts its own evaluation and makes adjustments to the program based on feedback and comments from volunteers, patients, and family members.

Monthly Lunch & Learn events provide opportunities for all VUMC volunteers can learn from physicians and researchers about various programs and research that is occurring at Vanderbilt. The Volunteer Services Department hosts annual recognition events that are paid for out of its annual budget.

The Trans Peer/Buddy program is the only group that currently meets quarterly to facilitate communication and support amongst its volunteers.

Andrew Peterson
Director of Pastoral Care & Volunteer Services
1005 Oxford House
Nashville, TN 37232-4785
(615) 936-8871