By Alyssa Sperrazza
Jill Hughes grew up playing nurse, asking for doctor’s kits for Christmas and always made sure everyone in the house was doing well.
Now Hughes has been named chief nursing officer (CNO) at INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital where she’ll take care of those who take care of everyone else.
“When I started out, I didn’t do OB… I did cardiac and telemetry but my primary focus was on women’s health, women and newborn,” Hughes said. “And I’ve always loved that but what I began to realize is that I had a real desire to take care of the people who took care of the people. Nursing is our largest group of caregivers so having the responsibility to ensure they have the right tools in their hands, the processes in place and best practice to guide them quickly became a priority for me even before I was in a management role, just as a leader on the floor.”
Hughes, originally from South Carolina, earned her associate’s degree before moving to Oklahoma in 2007. It was then she decided to pursue higher education, earning her bachelor’s degree and her master’s in Nursing Leadership from Southern Nazarene University in 2013. She served as an administrative director of INTEGRIS’ Women’s Center and the INTEGRIS Bennett Fertility Institute for the past 11 years.
“I would say I started out with a real love for taking care of patients, especially moms and babies, but transitioned somewhere along the way to make sure caregivers had what they needed,” Hughes said. “And so I just began to be really passionate about that. That kind of moved me toward a formal leadership role.”
Conscious of INTEGRIS’ desire for succession planning and leadership growth, Hughes said there was a running joke with newly-appointed hospital president Teresa Gray that turned out to be prophetically funny.
“I told her that I would become CNO when she was president,” Hughes said, laughing at the irony. The two who have worked closely together over the years now have offices 20 feet apart from one another, both having risen to leadership roles as they work to continue the expectation of excellence in the hospital.
And for Hughes, she has several goals for the next few years as she assumes her new role caring for the caregivers.
“I think one of the greatest challenges we have right now as nurses is finding a balance,” Hughes said. “It’s very hard to say ‘no’ when you know your fellow coworkers or patients have needs. And I think one of the hardest things is finding that balance between taking care of yourself and what’s in your heart to take care of others. That is a huge area of focus right now, trying to learn how to care for ourselves better.”
“[I also want] to continue to support the culture we have here because it’s a very unique culture… to be family center, to be community centered. And to learn the aspect of working with our board.”
While Hughes isn’t spending most her days at a bedside or in scrubs anymore, she said there are things you always remember.
“I still hear back from patients from years and years and year ago, even in my first year of nursing,” Hughes said. “I got a Facebook message from a lady I delivered her baby for back in the very beginning and that person is now an adult. The child I helped delivered is now an adult and just talking about their experiences and how much it meant to them. So you hold on to those memories forever.”
For Hughes, caring for a patient goes beyond a physical checklist.
“It may be how you made them feel. You sat down and listened to them. The fact that you understood that there was something else going on. It’s about the total well-being of the patient… There are so many moving parts in nursing… It’s very easy when you get into a hospital setting to be segregated. That’s one thing we work really hard here not to do. There’s a wonderful family atmosphere. This culture is family oriented internally. So being a part of that and understanding the importance of that is key.”
From playing with doctor kits as a child to stepping into her new role as chief nursing officer, Hughes is continuing to pursue her passion to care for those who dedicate their lives caring for others.