Making a Difference Every Day.


For 40 years, Phyllis Waddell has been a fixture in the NICU at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital, providing remarkable care to the tiniest patients.

Meet remarkable team member Phyllis Waddell

Phyllis Waddell has been a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse for 40 years. She has spent every one of those years at Novant Health.

Waddell knew she wanted to be a pediatric nurse when she came out of nursing school, but it was her rotation in the NICU that solidified her passion for these babies and their families.

“The NICU is a world of its own. We walk in the door to 70 babies who need individualized care,” she said. “There are not many jobs where you know you’re going to make a difference every single day. That’s what keeps me doing this 40 years later.”

These days, Waddell is the NICU nurse manager at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital, where she and her four assistants manage a staff of 150 nurses, ensuring remarkable care for every baby and family in need of intensive care.

“The staff we have is amazing,” Waddell said. “They are here for the babies and the families. They’re completely engaged and committed to providing exceptional care.”

NICU growth and transformations

The NICU cares for very sick babies. In the decades Waddell has been a practicing nurse, she has seen the gestational age of viability decrease from 27 weeks to 22 weeks. This notable change illustrates how remarkable care can work in tandem with advanced medical research and technology.

“Seeing the babies walk out of our doors healthy and seeing new equipment come through our doors means the world to us. We work so hard to provide the best, so it’s really rewarding,” Waddell said.

Hemby Children’s Hospital is expanding the NICU bed numbers as a response to an overflow of babies who need care. The growth of the unit is a huge accomplishment for providers like Waddell. When she began her career as a NICU nurse, the unit only provided care for 12 babies per day. Now, that number has increased to 70 babies per day.

NICU nurses are imperative to the care process. They keep the doctors informed and updated and assist in designing and facilitating care plans for each child.

“The doctors rely on our nurses to be their eyes and ears as they care for 70 babies in our unit. Doctors can’t be in every room every moment of every day, but as nurses, we are constantly with the families,” Waddell said. “It’s a great relationship.”

Making ‘astronomical’ impact

At Hemby Children’s Hospital, NICU nurses go the extra mile. They come to work focused on providing comfort, care and knowledge to the families whose newborns are experiencing health challenges.

“The impact these nurses have on families is just astronomical,” Waddell said. “They keep up with families on social media and watch the babies grow up. They even attend birthday parties and celebrations for many years.”

When a baby or family goes home, it is the outcome everyone hoped for. Still, there are mixed emotions.

Sometimes these families have been with us for six months or more, and they often say, ‘I didn’t think we’d have a hard time leaving,’” Waddell said. “The parents spend a lot of time in the NICU while their child is receiving care. The nurses become like family, and the fellow parents become best friends. There’s a lot of waxing and waning; ups and downs; two steps forward, one step back. The people who walk the halls of the NICU support each other every step of the way. It’s a really beautiful experience for everyone involved.”

As for Waddell, she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

“I love my job,” she said.  “Every single day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something meaningful. I still have a few years left in me.”

Your gift supports remarkable care.

You can support NICU babies and families with a gift through Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation. Your generous contribution supports the Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital NICU expansion and provides lifesaving care and equipment to families in need.

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