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MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public Relations Research Grants MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause


Delivering personalized family care

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
MUSC employee Meredith Strehle was anxious to meet and hold her son, Tillman Alexander, during the morning hours of Sept. 13. As a first-time mother, she had hoped that her birth experience would be positive, comfortable and focused on a family-centered care approach for her, husband Nick, and their newborn.
It was the same goal for second-time mom and nurse Brooke Hembre with the April 4 birth of daughter, Carter. Clinical pharmacist Matt Maughan and wife, Lil, were confident in relying on MUSC in the birth of both their sons, Jacob, born in January 2009, and more recently, Eli, born in February.
Labor and Delivery patient Jessica Carrigan underoges an ultrasound test performed by OB/GYN resident Dr, heather Norton and nurse Lauren Small. Waiting nearby is husband Jason. The Summerville couple, who will be first-time parents, checked into the unit Sept. 14 and have been waiting for the arrival of their daughter, Skylar, in one of nine newly renovated labor rooms.

These families, all MUSC employees and their spouses, were able to enjoy a positive birth experience through the guidance of a skilled and experienced health care team and an array of services and programs that are supportive to the well-being of mother, newborn and family.
“We strive to provide good family-centered care so that mother and newborns are together as much as possible,” said Debbie Browning, R.N., MUSC Women & Infant Services Service Line director. “We invite families to bring items from home that would help make their labor and delivery experience both comfortable and personal.”
OB/GYN resident Dr. Katie Gurchek, third from left, cuts a ribbon signifying the Labor and Delivery (L&D) unit re-opening Sept. 7. She's joined by L&D nurse manager Karen Stephenson, nurses Becky Blacher, Lauren Small, Postpartum nurse Mary Farmer, L&D nurse Sonya Jacobs and Clinical Pharmacy's Dr. Matt Maughan.

Earlier this summer, MUSC Women & Infant Services unveiled a new look and planned renovations in its Labor and Delivery unit complementing its nine birthing suites, two operating rooms, exam and recovery rooms and nurse’s station. Specific changes included softer lighting, a warm, inviting color scheme in the halls and rooms and Lowcountry photographs gracing the walls. In patient rooms, new equipment and designs were added including storage space and shelving, convertible lounge chairs for family and flat-screen televisions. The four-month project was the first in a multi-phase renovation project for Women & Infant Services areas, including Obstetrics-Gynecology, Labor and Delivery, Antepartum (high-risk deliveries) and Postpartum (post delivery). The Labor and Delivery unit was officially unveiled Sept. 7.
The changes are part of an overall effort to promote services and expertise provided by the MUSC Women & Infant Services clinical team and faculty and staff with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The department and staff continue to make progress in providing quality patient care. For the second year in a row, U.S. News & World Report ranked MUSC among one of the country’s best hospitals for gynecology services.
The spotlight on Labor and Delivery’s clinical care services also is the September Employee Benefit of the Month. Expectant MUSC employees and their spouses, who are covered by the Standard State of Health Plan (Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina-BCBS), are eligible to save as much as $1,000 in out-of-pocket hospital expenses when they deliver their baby at MUSC. This discount does not apply to BCBS’s high deductible plan.
“The cost savings to deliver my baby at MUSC was a driving factor in my ultimate decision,” said Hembree, who’s been at MUSC since 2004 and works in the Postpartum and Level 1 nursery. Hembree also was aware that anything could happen during a live birth, and she felt comfortable with the available expertise of neonatologists and 24/7 coverage by anesthesia specialists and other clinical experts in the event her planned birth experience quickly turned into a high-risk delivery with complications. “I knew I was in capable hands with my coworkers, physicians and residents and that they’d take good care of me. I knew it was the perfect place to deliver my child.”
Strehle, who is a public information director for MUSC Children’s Hospital, chose MUSC as her hospital of choice for her birth experience from the start. Her obstetrician was Margaret Villers, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who is located at MUSC Women’s Health Services at 135 Cannon St.
“It was an easy decision because I work with and trust the people involved in my care,” Strehle said. “I trust in these services as well as the knowledge and experience of the department and staff.”
Throughout Strehle’s pregnancy she relied on MUSC services and resources, from attending her first trimester prenatal screening and follow-up appointments with her physician to using and exploring available resources such as online birth planning. She also followed the Women Speak health blog and used other health assessment tools. Strehle also was the author of her own blog, Mrs. Pregnant in the Lowcountry, which shared details and experiences along her pregnancy journey.
The Strehles, like other expectant couples, attended scheduled Child Birth Education Classes taught by certified child birth educators-nurses. These classes offered details about the birth process, pain management, and newborn and mother’s care. She also attended breast-feeding class, while Nick plans to attend the Boot Camp for New Dads Workshop soon after both baby and mother are home and settled. The Labor and Delivery staff facilitates breast-feeding between a mother and newborn within an hour after birth. 
The Maughans, who live in James Island, also felt comfortable selecting MUSC for their private birth experience. Because of his work, Maughan was already familiar working with coworkers in Labor and Delivery and the Postpartum areas. Minor challenges in the birth of their first son assured them that they were in the best place as they planned for the delivery of their second child. Baby Eli surprised everyone by coming two weeks early.
“My wife and I knew that being surrounded by good, experienced people helped make each birth a great experience,” Maughan said. “Both times, we knew we received the best care available.”
“Our Labor and Delivery nurses are a diverse group who are certified in both fetal monitoring and neonatal resuscitation and together, share years of valuable experience,” said Karen Stephenson, R.N., Labor and Delivery nurse manager. “They are committed to their work and are always striving to improve patient care.”
To schedule an appointment, call 792-1212.

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.