The obstetrics/gynecology department at Wallace Thomson Hospital in Union is proof the best care can come in a smaller package.
Sure, the department has all the certifications, state-of-the-art equipment and up-to-date labor and delivery rooms, but the measure of care the nurses of the Union hospital’s OB/GYN department is much more than its technology and patient rooms.
To the 15 nurses who work in the department, the care they provide comes from the heart.
“As nurses, we feel the same emotions our patients do,” said RN Jessie Peterson.
“If they cry, we cry. If they laugh, we laugh,” said LPN Brenda Mowdy.
That connection and dedication to patients sets the Wallace Thomson department apart from others — no matter the size — and it’s why many of them have worked there for several years.
The total number of years of combined experience between the 15-member nursing staff at the Union OB/GYN department is amazing — coming in at just over 300 years. Several of the nurses who walk the halls on the second floor and care for the newborns and their mothers after birth — including Mowdy — have 30 or more years of experience doing just that.
“Our nurses are very seasoned,” said department clinical director and RN B.J. McMorris.
Several of the nurses in the department also have had their own children in Union. Mowdy had two here and McMorris had all four of her own children and two of her grandchildren born right there where she works.
So their work at Wallace Thomson Hospital is much more than performing the job — it’s like taking care of family.
All of the nurses in the OB/GYN department are A-1-WHONN (American Women’s Health Organization of Neonatal Nurses), NRP (Neonatal Resuscitation Program) and STABLE (Sugar Temperature Airway Blood pressure Labs Emotions) certified — most of them holding advanced certifications. That means they all meet nationwide certification standards in several areas, including neonatal resuscitation and making sure babies are ready for transportation if the situation calls. McMorris added the nurses also update their certifications — as required — at least every two years.
The department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is easily accessible — patients can walk in the front door of the hospital and directly into the elevator which will take them to the second floor where the department is located and all registration work can be done there.
“You don’t even have to stop downstairs,” McMorris said.
Patients are asked to enter through the emergency room at night, but even then the stop is only brief before someone is there and ready to take them upstairs.
The department is home to two labor and delivery rooms but — if push comes to shove — can transform any room in the unit into a delivery room with specialized tables that can become delivery beds.
The labor and delivery rooms have all the equipment necessary — monitors, emergency equipment, oxygen, etc. — and stations with any medications or other materials that could be needed for successful delivery. An added benefit of the Wallace Thomson labor and delivery suites, however, is all of it is concealed until its needed, giving the mother and family a more home-like feel to their experience.
The oxygen and other controls are hidden in the wall behind paintings and the rooms also have overhead lights hidden in the ceiling until they are needed.
“A lot of our equipment is comparable or better,” McMorris said in comparison to that at larger facilities.
Wallace Thomson also partners with Spartanburg Regional Medical Center and works closely with its neighbor to the northwest so any mothers and newborns needing additional care outside of the realm of what the local department can do — such as the need for neonatal intensive care — the transition is as smooth and quick as needed.
Being smaller also has other benefits for the patient.
For one, McMorris and her staff can spend more time with their patients, educating them and caring for them at a different level than at a large hospital.
Education begins from the time a mother comes into the department and continues until they leave and sometimes after. McMorris said that education spans from how to take care of a newborn to a quick reference on CPR, immunizations, baby safety and other areas of information to make sure a mother has all the tools she needs upon leaving the department’s care.
Screenings and other tests also are performed within the department to make sure everything is going the way it should for mother and baby before they leave the hospital.
“There’s a lot of stuff to cover,” McMorris said.
OB/GYN Dr. Brian Lutz — a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist with more than 20 years experience — also does a lot of work in the department. Not only does he deliver babies and care for mothers while in labor and after, he also performs other services in the hospital like hysterectomies and other women’s services. The department also offers some outpatient services such as infant hearing screenings and other procedures.
The Wallace Thomson OB/GYN department handled 104 births last year — accounting for one-third of Union County’s total 300 each year. McMorris thinks it would be more if people realized the department was open again.
The hospital has had an OB/GYN department since it opened, but it was closed for just more than a year between May 2006 and September 2007 as there was no OB/GYN doctor on staff. McMorris says people still comment they didn’t know her department was back up and running.
She added, unfortunately, more and more people are of the mentality that bigger is better and choose to go outside Union to have their babies.
What she and her nurses want people to know, however, is that they provide the same level of care — or better — than those larger facilities. Plus, they’re all about the patients.
“I expect all of my nurses to respect their patients,” McMorris said.
It doesn’t matter what background, what financial situation, what anything a mother is, they and their family will receive the same level of care — and respect — as any other.
“Everyone will be treated fairly and be respected throughout their visit here,” McMorris said. “We’re good to our patients.”
Mowdy said nearly all of the mothers who have had children at Wallace Thomson — even if they were trying to get somewhere else and couldn’t — said they were glad they stayed at home to do it. It’s a special treat for all of the nurses in the department, too, when they see past or present patients outside of work.
McMorris said 90 percent of the time she can be walking down the street or even at a local department store and run into someone who had a baby under her and her department’s care. Mowdy was the same way.
“That’s the special part about working here,” McMorris said.
She said every baby that’s born at Wallace Thomson is just like family to the 15 nurses who help take care of them from before delivery to welcoming them into the world and then saying goodbye when they go home.
McMorris and her nurses want their patients’ stay to be as close to being at home as possible. They also want them to be as comfortable as possible and she and her nurses encourage expecting mothers to use their hometown facility.
“We can take care of them here,” she said.
That commitment to serving their neighbors translates into an entirely different experience for patients — one that combines top quality with sincere care.
“The patients receive excellent care,” said Union Hospital District CEO Bill Leonard. “The C-Section rate is less than half of the National Average and the mother and baby receive the highest number of nursing hours in the upstate.”
“We’ll give you excellent care,” McMorris said. “We’ll treat you like family.”