Becoming a Leader in Pediatric Care

Morgan Hunt’s varied career path helped prepare her to face the challenges of COVID-19.

When asked to name a nurse who personified the culture of caring at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital during 2021, top leaders point to Morgan Hunt, RN, BSN, CPN.

Hunt started her career at the hospital in 2012, after earning a nursing degree at Auburn University. She didn’t know at the time how varied her responsibilities would turn out to be. Nor could she have imagined the challenges that would crop up years later following the outbreak of COVID-19.

“None of us were initially prepared to navigate a global pandemic,” she said. “But I told my people the argument ‘we’ve never done this before’ just wasn’t going to cut it.”

Hunt, a nurse manager who’d been overseeing pediatric care, the pediatric ICU and child life for three years, was aware of the fear that was gripping some staff members as conditions worsened during the year. “The team got through it,” she said, “because of a feeling that tends to take hold in crisis situations: the feeling of being needed.”

If she learned one leadership lesson during this period, it was the importance of not asking staff to do anything she wouldn’t do herself. “I let them know I’d never knowingly put them in danger,” she said, “and they responded to that.”

As things turned out, the patient census in pediatrics actually dropped after COVID-19 hit. Children didn’t at first contract the virus at the rates adults did, and parents were tending to avoid healthcare settings altogether, except in urgent circumstances.

As a result, a number of the hospital’s physicians, nurses and staff were redeployed to COVID-19 treatment units for adults. “Our team members responded to this situation like true professionals,” Hunt said. “They knew this was what they’d signed up for. Their reaction was to dig in, not to run away.”

The staff’s response to COVID-19 is something Hunt will always be proud of, but she’s quick to point out other noteworthy achievements during 2021. One was the opening of new, covered outdoor Blume Family Playground. Another was the opening of the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Caroline’s Corner, a family respite room created in partnership with the Ronald McDonald House.

Hunt is grateful to work for an organization whose corporate culture is so nurturing. “I have nurses who have been here for 30, even 40 years,” she said. “They stay because the working environment has a family feel rather than a business feel. Everybody knows everyone else. You really can’t put a price tag on that!”

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