Graduate success

Courtney Hughes ’12Pediatric nurse
Sanford Children's Castle of Care Hospital
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Called to care
Being a pediatric nurse is “the job of my dreams,” says Courtney, who is passionate about both health sciences and children. She credits her excellent Northwestern nursing education—especially her clinical preceptorship—with enabling her to land the job she wanted within four months of graduation and complete the Sanford Children’s Hospital orientation program ahead of schedule.


Pediatric nursing can be heartbreaking at times. What do you find fulfilling about it?

One of the most fulfilling things about my job is watching a very sick child become a healthy one, and seeing the look on the parents’ faces. I enjoy the night shift, rocking babies to sleep and tucking the younger children in bed. I also like playing games with the older kids and talking with them about the things they’re interested in, like football.

Northwestern’s nursing department has a philosophy of biblical “shalom”—caring for body, mind and soul. How does the pursuit of shalom impact the way you practice nursing?

As I’ve already learned in my first year at Sanford, families really appreciate a nurse who is not only concerned and knowledgeable about their child’s medical status, but also cares about the child’s emotional and spiritual well-being. While a diagnosis is important for the care of the patient, families appreciate when their child is valued as a person—they trust we will provide the best care for their child.

In what ways did your nursing professors encourage and inspire you?

My nursing professors shared their nursing experiences with us, and it was evident in each story that they all had a desire to be a great nurse and a deep passion for being an advocate for their patients. They always encouraged us to do the same for patients, which rings true in my job at Sanford Children’s. Young children don’t often have a voice of their own, so it’s our job as nurses to be their voice—to advocate for these vulnerable patients.

How do you think your patients and their families would describe you and your bedside manner?

A few days ago, a family member of one of my patients told me that my smile and personality were very uplifting. Going to work as a nurse is just like going to work at every other job. You may feel tired that day, or you may have other issues you are dealing with that affect your attitude at work. I try very hard each day when I drive in to work to use that time to pray for my patients and families. I try to come to work with a positive attitude, despite what may be going on in my personal life. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a sick child in the hospital, but I do know that I would want a caretaker with an uplifting presence and a warm spirit.

What are your dreams for your nursing career?

I love my job at Sanford Children’s and can envision myself staying here for a long time, but I’m also open to travel nursing. The experience and knowledge you learn—as well as being able to travel and see places you don’t normally visit—is very appealing. I can also see myself getting additional training in the NICU and PICU or becoming chemo-certified. There are unlimited options when it comes to the nursing field, which makes the future open and exciting.

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