Latest Entries

It’s Toy Safety Season

It’s toy season and holiday shoppers are on the hunt for the latest, most fun and exciting gifts for their favorite little ones. But did you know that not all toys are safe?  Some products contain unsafe substances, small parts or loose magnets that can seriously harm the health of our children.

Education is key and the WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department, NC PIRG, Wake County Human Services and Safe Kids Wake County have partnered to help spread the word about NC PIRG’s annual Trouble in Toyland report.

The report lists specific toys to avoid and provides guidelines for parents, grandparents and other gift givers to follow when selecting a toy for a child.

NC PIRG Ed Fund staff examined and tested hundreds of toys for things like:

  • Phthalate levels which may harm development of the male reproductive system, and is linked to early puberty.
  • Chromium levels which can cause severe allergic reactions including skin redness, swelling, and ulcers. Chromium compounds are also known to cause cancer.
  • Labeling for Small Parts, Balls, Balloons
  • Loose or Small Magnets which can cause serious intestinal problems in children if swallowed
  • Excessive Noise which can lead to hearing loss.
  • Lead levels which can undermine IQ, attentiveness, and academic achievement.

As the leading provider of children’s healthcare in Wake County, we encourage you to download and read the entire report before beginning your holiday shopping.  The risks of illnesses and injuries are real and we see the negative effects of unsafe products every year in our Children’s Emergency Department.

It is also a very good idea to sign up for announcements of government recalled products and to report all unsafe toys or injuries from toys to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Thank you NC PIRG for helping to keep the kids in our community safe this holiday season!


WakeMed’s Journey to Magnet

Watch the history of WakeMed’s journey to become a Magnet Organization. Magnet is an award given by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC) to hospitals that satisfy a set of criteria designed to measure the strength and quality of their nursing.


Prematurity Awareness Day

Today is prematurity awareness day.  As the home of Wake County’s most advanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we hold a special place in our hearts for premature infants and their families.

Watch Hannah’s story of prematurity and meet her rainbow baby.


Honoring Our Veterans

Every year on November 11, our nation takes the opportunity to honor and appreciate the sacrifices and selflessness of the men and women who serve in the American armed forces.  Here at WakeMed, we are fortunate to have more than 450 active and veteran service members among our family, including our CEO who retired from the Navy after serving for more than 30 years.   On this day each year, we take time to thank and honor the veterans among our staff – employees, physicians and volunteers – as well as everyone who served our country in the armed forces.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your contributions to our organization, community, state, nation and world. Your support and sacrifices – and the sacrifices of your families and loved ones – have helped make this nation what it is today.

Here are some pictures from this morning’s Veteran’s Day service held on WakeMed Raleigh Campus.

Donald Gintzig, WakeMed CEO, retired Navy, with Philip, a WakeMed volunteer, and the longest-serving veteran in attendance.

Donald Gintzig, WakeMed CEO, retired Navy, individually thanking service members.

Our WakeMed chorus singing the National Anthem.


40 Years of the Highest Level of Neonatal Care

After nearly 40 years working as a neonatologist in the WakeMed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Ross Vaughan recently officially retired.  Although he missed the opening of Wake County’s first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit by four years, he provided exceptional care to Wake County’s tiniest babies and their families and has seen the unit grow and change over time. Here are a few of his thoughts on how the nursery has changed and what makes our nursery special.

Ross Vaughan, MD

When I began working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I worked every other night and every other weekend for nine years until we added an additional physician.  Our facility was very small, our therapeutic options were much more limited, and we only provided intervention to babies who were at least 28 week gestation and weighed more than two pounds.  In those days, most moms didn’t get steroids in advance of delivery to help with lung maturity, and we didn’t have surfactant for babies so respiratory problems were much more severe.

Today, a baby who is 2 pounds and 28 weeks gestation almost always survives and thrives.   Back in 1977 we weren’t able to make those guarantees.  We are also now providing intervention for babies who are only 23 to 24 weeks gestation and weigh as little as 1.25 lbs.  We’re focused on providing developmentally supportive care, controlling the light and sound and offering families private rooms that provide a better environment for their baby’s growth and development as well as family bonding

The other big change from 1977 to today in the NICU is the access to pediatric specialists. In 1977 we didn’t have subspecialists – except a pediatric infectious disease physician. Now, we are fortunate to have pediatric radiologists, cardiologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons, endocrinologists, urologists and ophthalmologists all just a text away.

When I’m asked what I am most proud of about our NICU, it is without a doubt the dedication and talent of the nursing staff.   I was always so proud to watch our nurses interact with families and to see the care and support they provided.  It was truly inspirational.  I also think that the developmentally supportive care the nursery offers through the NIDCAP philosophy and our in-house Mother’s Milk Bank are the things that truly separate the WakeMed Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from other nurseries in our community and region.

Dr. Vaughan, thank you for your service and dedication to neonatal care in Wake County and at WakeMed. You have positively impacted your co-workers and thousands of teeny tiny babies during your tenure.


Happy Retirement to Our Second-Longest Tenured Employee

When Nathaniel Lett joined WakeMed at just 19, he was one of the youngest people working in what is now Surgical Services.  Today, after 51 years and nine months, Lett is retiring from WakeMed with the distinction of being our second-longest tenured employee, having spent nearly his whole career as a surgical technician.

Happy Retirement, Mr. Lett!

Over the course of 50 years, Lett says one thing that made him excited to come to work day after day, year after year, is being part of the team that helps make sick patients feel better. Having a front-row seat to the recovery process – from seeing a patient in the Operating Room to waving at them in the hallway days later – is what he will miss the most in retirement. Over the years, Lett has assisted with thousands of surgeries (including a memorable 16-hour heart procedure!) and worked with countless physicians, nurses, surgical techs and others.

He credits his coworkers for helping him become the person he is today. “It’s the people that energize you and teach you. My strength comes from people pouring into me every day, and that’s what makes it hard to retire,” he said.

In five decades, Lett has seen many changes at WakeMed but says the most meaningful has been in WakeMed’s role in the community. “At the beginning, we were a place where people came to die because we didn’t have the tools and technology to save them. Now, saving lives is what we do – it’s what we are all about. I look around at the lives we save and the people that survive – and it makes you feel good.”

As he hangs up his scrubs for the last time, Lett hopes to leave a legacy of kindness at WakeMed. “When I was younger, I didn’t know enough to thank people for what they’ve taught me. Now I work hard to make everyone feel that they are of value – because they are.”

With a long, successful career behind him, Lett plans to enjoy his retirement by spending time with his wife and family and by traveling the world.


Treatment for Hand Injuries

Dr. Okechukwo Nwoko

You have a hand injury – and maybe a hand fracture – and you’re wondering what to expect from your visit to the emergency department, orthopaedic office or urgent care.  Dr. Okechukwu Nwoko, a hand and wrist specialist with Wake Orthopaedics, talked us through what physicians consider when determining the treatment plan for an orthopaedic hand injury.  According to Dr. Nwoko, considerations for treatment of hand injuries are based on various factors. These factors include:

  • The severity of the injury
  • The pattern and level of the fracture
  • Ligaments involved in the injury
  • How much motion can be allowed without making the injury worse – which is especially important when discussing time to return to work or sports

Options for limiting motion, which is often needed to ensure proper healing, include straps, splints, or casts:


Straps allow you the most motion while at the same time giving some limitation from side-to-side, which is especially important for ligament injuries and partially healed fractures. This limited movement still allows the wearer to have use of their hands to do things like write or type.


When using splints, the material should not be circumferential and should be easily removable to allow room for swelling, access for emergencies and for hygiene purposes. Splints are more restrictive than the straps, but are not as rigid as a cast.


A cast is usually made from a fiberglass material that is very rigid. Casts offer the most protection and limited use of the involved area, which is especially important in more severe injuries that require complete immobilization to heal.

Other different materials can be used to achieve the same results, but because hands are needed to complete so many daily tasks, physicians try to choose solutions that achieve adequate protection of the injury site and also offer the greatest motion possible.

Dr. Okechukwu Nwoko, is a hand and wrist specialist with Wake Orthopaedics.  With additional questions about hand and wrist injuries, visit or call 919-232-5020 to make an appointment with a specialists.


Celebrating 40 Years of Clinical Pastoral Education

In 1972, there was a deadly shooting at North Hills Mall where a sniper opened fire, killed three people, and wounded eight others.  During this incident, it became apparent that although WakeMed had the skills to clinically treat patients, we did not have the resources to help families and their loved ones through crisis.

In 1973, we hired our first Chaplain to provide support and resources for patients and their loved ones as well as staff who were hurting.  He set to work organizing a group of area clergy volunteers and also began working toward a formal Clinical Pastoral Education program to respond to the needs at the hospital.

As Wake County grew, the demands on community spiritual leaders prevented them from having time available to also cover call at the hospital.  The answer was found in growing the Clinical Pastoral Education program, offering education to enhance effective interfaith spiritual care.  The first unit of students joined WakeMed in 1975 and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the program, which is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.

Today, the Spiritual Care Department includes four Chaplains who are certified Clinical Pastoral Educators and supervise residents and interns throughout the year. To date, more than 720 students have trained at WakeMed.  Together, the WakeMed Clinical Pastoral Education students provide spiritual care to participants in many of the organizations serving the under-served in Wake County.  These interfaith interns and residents cover the Raleigh WakeMed Campus and also provide chaplain services for Urban MinistriesInteractHelen Wright Center for WomenSaint Saviour’s and the Men’s Shelter.

It takes a special person with special training to provide strength and comfort to people experiencing extremely difficult crisis situations, and our entire community is blessed to have such strong interfaith spiritual care resources at WakeMed that had more than 66,000 patient, family and staff contacts just last year.


5 Tips to Help Your Children Avoid Cold & Flu – Even When You Are Not There

It’s a well-known fact that children do not have the best hygiene. Parents, how many times have you had to remind your child to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating dinner? For me, that number is in the gazillions and my oldest is only eight.

I’m also quite certain that healthy hand hygiene practices, which go a really long way to prevent the spread of germs, are not observed when I am not around. So, I sought out Sara Dantism, a fourth year Campbell University Pharmacy student, to see if we could brainstorm some solutions to help keep those nasty cold and flu germs at bay.

Here’s what we came up with:

1.  Parents – this one is really your responsibility – make sure your children’s vaccinations are up to date, including flu shots.
2. Have your child watch these fun videos to show them the basics of handwashing, staying healthy and proper sneeze and cough etiquette.

3. Send a reminder note in your child’s lunch box every now and then reminding them to wash their hands before eating lunch and consider packing a mini hand sanitizer or a wet nap in their lunchbox
4. Have your children wash their hands immediately when they come home from school.
5. Encourage them not to reuse tissues. If they have to blow or wipe their nose, they need to use a clean tissue each time. Stocking them with mini tissue packs in their backpack promotes this healthy habit.

Even with the right education and the right tools, children still seem bound and determined to contract at least one viral illness each season that probably could have been prevented. When this occurs, your community pharmacist is a great resource on how to treat symptoms of the common cold.

  • Headache –– Tylenol® (acetaminophen) – comes in children’s syrup flavored and chewable tablets
  • Stuffy nose – saline nasal spray during the day, warm showers or baths in the evening and a humidifier at night can help to clear out those sinuses. Just make sure to clean that humidifier regularly.
  • Draining nose – Benedryl® (antihistamine) – comes in liquid and tablets specially made for children
  • Scratchy throat – cough drops or lozenges – warn children that although some of these products may taste good, don’t take a lot because it is still medicine – maximum of one every two hours is a good rule of thumb

If your child has a fever, it is probably not a cold and you may need to see a physician to rule out strep throat or another illness where you cannot just rely on over-the-counter medications. Also, make sure to read the product’s label carefully to make sure you are not double dosing – especially if you are giving your child a medicine like Tylenol Cold & Flu which includes a combination of many medications. Additionally, if your child has asthma or another underlying health condition, it is very important to check with your doctor before administering any medications.

Parents, we’d also love to hear your ideas on increasing handwashing compliance. If something has worked well for you, please share.

Here’s to a staying well!


Introducing WakeMed Heart & Vascular Physicians

New Name, Same Exceptional Heart Care

All of our heart and vascular physicians have merged into one practice, delivering exceptional, highly-coordinated care for our patients.

Together, Carolina Cardiology, Raleigh Cardiology, Carolina Cardiovascular Surgical Associates,  Structural Heart & Advanced Devices, Complex Arrhythmia and  Vascular Surgery are now WakeMed Heart & Vascular Physicians.

Learn all about our new, combined practice and watch video bios for our providers.