Celebrating 10 years of community care

Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center brings remarkable care close to home

Nursing is a calling for Julie Schaefer. It always has been. 

She remembers, at the age of 5, when another child fell off the slide at a playground. The child’s mother was hysterical, and Schaefer’s aunt, a nurse, stepped in to help.

“I thought, ‘That is what I want to do. I want to be the person who can step up to help others,’” she recalled.

In college, when she wavered on the nursing path, she took a job on a dude ranch in Montana. One of the last weeks she was there, someone passed out on the trail.

“We rushed to where he was. He had no pulse. He wasn’t breathing. So I started CPR,” Schaefer said. “He had a brain aneurysm, and I wasn’t able to save him, but it was a reconnection to the fact that this is what I want to do.”

Now, she is following her calling. She is a nurse manager at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. And Schaefer has been there from day one.

“The month before we opened is probably one of my fondest memories,” Schaefer said. “We got to spend a lot of time together as a hospital. We got to know each other. We got to design our own processes, and we all work so well together in the building that we see each other as one team. Not only is it a community hospital, but we are our own community here. I know everybody by name, and they know me. That’s a great feeling.”

Over the past 10 years, that team has had a profound impact on the community it serves. When Kernersville Medical Center opened, it brought access to care closer than ever for residents in the community. Two existing hospitals sit 25 minutes away by car, which can feel unbearably long when you or a loved one need immediate care.

“Kernersville is a pretty tight community. The need was to have a place where you didn’t have to drive outside your community to receive quality care,” Schaefer said.

Kernersville Medical Center filled a critical gap, providing not only basic and emergency care but also increasing access to specialists and ancillary health services.

“The day we opened, we had four patients in the first hour, and we admitted all four of them. The need just skyrocketed from there,” Schaefer said. “It wasn’t long before the hospital started bringing specialists into Kernersville. Kernersville Medical Center has brought all of that right here, so our residents don’t have to go to Winston-Salem or Greensboro to get care.”

Schaefer sees the impact of the local remarkable care every day. She recalls one patient who was driving to the airport and started having chest pains, right about the time he passed by Kernersville Medical Center. Because he was able to stop and receive immediate care, he lived.

“We got him in and out to a cath lab in under 30 minutes, and he came back a week later to say how much he appreciated that we were here for him,” Schaefer said. “If he had gone another 25 minutes, he might not have made it.”

Then there are the babies. Kernersville Medical Center doesn’t yet have a labor and delivery unit, but when women can’t make it to the hospitals further away, they come to the emergency room at Kernersville Medical Center.

“We can certainly deliver a baby if we have to,” Schaefer said.

The impact of the care grew exponentially over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when once again the community relished the ability to find care — testing, screening and other services — close to home.

“If you couldn’t have visitors, at least you were here in your home community. It was overwhelming at times, but we worked well together, from the emergency room to inpatient services to surgical services. Team members from medical office buildings were over here helping out, screening patients because they weren’t seeing patients,” Schaefer said.

“Then there were the days when the police force came through, and they surrounded the hospital and turned their lights on. The fire department did the same thing, and that was a huge uplift to our team at Kernersville Medical Center,” she said. “Then, we went out and did the same thing with the nursing homes because we knew how much that helped us.”

The community has also supported Kernersville Medical Center in other meaningful ways since the very beginning, including through generous donations that have supported the expansion of many services, as well as smaller-scale upgrades such as the purchase of several Stryker wheelchairs, which Schaefer calls “the Cadillac” of wheelchairs. These contributions are a vital part of the medical center’s future as it looks to continued growth and to providing even more quality care to the Kernersville community. Among those planned upgrades is the addition of 12 labor and delivery rooms, as well as an expanded intensive care unit, including an increase in the number of beds from four to 12.

“We are also building a diagnostic cath lab here, and in the next six to seven years, we will build a new infusion suite,” Schaefer said. “Right now, we have a 10-chair infusion suite on the second floor, but in several years, it’s going to be brand new and right on the first floor, and it will be absolutely beautiful.”

Big things are coming for Kernersville Medical Center and the community it serves, and Schaefer is excited about every innovation and project, as well as the opportunity to continue working with the team at Novant Health. For her, the commitment to her team members is more than a job. She is passionate about the mission and values of Novant Health, and she believes in the importance of giving back. She personally pledges every year during Giving. Serving. Together., Novant Health’s team member giving campaign, to support her fellow team members and other Novant Health programs and initiatives through Novant Health Foundation.

“I love taking care of patients. I always have, and that’s part of the reason I like being a nurse manager in a small community hospital. I not only get to take care of patients; I get to take care of my team,” Schaefer said. “Novant Health gives me the resources to do that because that’s what they want me to do. That’s why I love Kernersville Medical Center, because I can do all of that in one position.”

You can make a difference.

You, too, can support the valuable work taking place at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center with a gift to our foundation. Your support allows us to continue providing remarkable care, now and in the future.

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