Charging ahead for kids
L. Eugene Daugherty explores latest upgrades at Hemby Children’s Hospital
When L. Eugene Daugherty, MD, came to Novant Health Hemby Children Hospital in 2017, peers and acquaintances would ask him where he worked. When he told them, he was surprised to learn many hadn’t heard of the hospital.
Today, Daugherty and his fellow Novant Health team members, including William Hammill, MD, and Catherine Ohmstede, MD, among many others, have successfully flipped the script. As medical director, Daugherty has helped lead the hospital through a period of exponential growth and expanded services. All the while, the team has charged ahead with a simple focus: provide remarkable care to every child and family.
“You’re going to get great care here – I can promise you that,” Daugherty said.
Coming to North Carolina: Daugherty has served as a medical director for more than 17 years, primarily in pediatric intensive care. He came to Novant Health as part of a trio of intensive care doctors from Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York. The doctors had been looking for a change.
“The benefit of the move was we’d worked with each other for years,” Daugherty said. “We knew our styles and everything else. We knew we could do some things to help stabilize this intensive care unit and help it grow. We’ve been able to do that over the last four years.”
It’s been a lot of hard work, but the children are always worth it in Daugherty’s eyes. Their enthusiasm and perseverance are primarily why he gravitated to pediatrics.
“It’s very gratifying how resilient kids are,” Daugherty said. “Kids can be as sick as you can imagine and bounce back from it. They may need some support here and there, but there’s such a resilience.”
Caring for families is also a major responsibility. Parents, siblings and grandparents frequently visit, and the experience can be trying for them. Daugherty is grateful for the opportunity to be there for families, even after the fact.
“You’re caring for parents in probably the most difficult and stressful time of their lives,” Daugherty said. “It sometimes creates a closeness with a family. I’ve had contact with some families for 15 years and some of them I’ll remember forever.”
Life as a medical director: In his role, Daugherty oversees the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the pediatric emergency department and pediatric floors from a care, policy and administrative standpoint.
“I look at it as kind of a pyramid,” Daugherty explained. “The foundation is, ‘Let’s take care of children and do the best we can for all of them.’ Then you move up to the 5,000-foot view to the 30,000-foot view, programmatically speaking. What can we do better? What programs can we support here?”
On a day-to-day level, strong communication is essential. Daugherty reminds his team that communication and professionalism are a major part of providing remarkable care.
“We have to remember as healthcare professionals that it’s not about us; it’s about children and families,” Daugherty said. “I’ve learned to have situational awareness. If a family is very concerned about their child, you can’t go in with preconceived notions. There is always more to the story.”
Making a difference: Since he arrived at Novant Health, Daugherty has been pleased to help the NICU improve its standard of care for infants with significant lung disease. Often, premature babies will have extended stays in the NICU and progress to the PICU. Daugherty has encountered some patients who have been discharged after a two-year stay.
“I think we’ve done a really good job working with the NICU to have a seamless transition of caring for the chronically sick, premature babies as they continue to grow,” Daugherty said.
In other cases, the hospital has been able to expand services and specialties, which helps kids receive care close to home. Today, Hemby Children’s Hospital has pediatric pulmonologists, endocrinologists and other specialists it didn’t have before Daugherty arrived.
“It’s vital to have a children’s hospital nearby that you trust and you don’t have to travel,” Daugherty said. “It’s needed for these families.”
The best is yet to come: Recently,Hemby Children’s Hospital unveiled several new amenities – made possible by generous donors and a partnership with the Ronald McDonald House – that are aimed at improving patient and family experiences. Caroline’s Corner is a dedicated space on the pediatric floors where families can relax during extended visits. There, families and loved ones can shower, do laundry and eat meals in comfort.
“You have all the amenities there to be comfortable and get away from the bedside when you need a break,” Daugherty said.
Outside, the Blume Family Playground allows patients and families to play and just enjoy themselves.
“I think it’s part of the therapy for the child,” Daugherty said of the playground. “It’s very cathartic to give them the opportunity to step out of the hospital, go outside and play with their siblings and families.”
In the future, the hospital is also boosting its capacity in the form of 12 new beds in the NICU. The additional beds will allow parents and families more space and help the unit accommodate increased admissions.
“Somewhere around 30,000 to 40,000 people a year are moving to Charlotte,” Daugherty said. “We are continuing to see an increase in pregnancies, deliveries and neonatal intensive care admissions. We need this expansion to keep up with the growth of Charlotte.”
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