Kate Hughes, ’10 | ARNP, Winter Park OB-GYN
By Angie Lewis, ’03
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” It’s a quote that Kate Hughes, ’10, lives by as an advanced registered nurse practitioner for Winter Park OB-GYN. I spent a day with her to gain more perspective on what it’s like to be a women’s care nurse.
It was just after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 6, when I joined Kate in her office, after meeting with the office manager to sign a confidentiality agreement. She had already seen her first patient by the time I greeted her.
While waiting for her next patient to get settled in the exam room, she checked messages and lab results on her laptop. Then, it was off to see her second patient of the day, an 18-year-old who wanted to renew her prescription for birth control after moving to Florida.
Kate entered the room, introduced herself and me, then asked the teen to tell her about herself. It’s part of how she was trained as a nurse practitioner — to treat mind, body and soul. She says getting to know more about her patients’ lives not only helps her develop a trusted bond with them, but also gives her insight into issues that could potentially cause health issues.
After learning more about her newest patient, Kate reminded her about the risks of birth control pills, and made sure she understood that they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Her next patient was a returning 42-year-old, who came in for an infertility consultation. Kate explained the initial tests she wanted to run, as well as the next steps, which seemed to give the patient some hope.
She was followed by a 33-year-old who was there for her 38-week pregnancy checkup on her third child. While performing the exam, Kate felt something abnormal. However, not knowing what it was, and not wanting to unnecessarily concern her patient, she stayed calm and told her she was having a difficult time finding her cervix.
After my arrival earlier that morning, Kate had explained that Winter Park OB-GYN was a collaborative practice. And, this particular patient was a perfect example of that collaboration at work, as she consulted a fellow nurse practitioner about her unusual discovery.
Thankfully, it turned out to be a varicose vein on the uterus and not an umbilical cord, which would have required emergent care.
As the morning proceeded, Kate saw four more patients — a 34-year-old for a 34-week pregnancy check, a 24-year-old in for her first pap smear, a 25-year-old with a yeast infection and a 24-year-old who came in for a Nexplanon birth control implant — before getting to take a break for lunch, through which she worked on charts, and again checked messages and lab results.
After getting a few bites in, it was time for her first patient of the afternoon, a 60-year-old in for her annual exam. She was followed by a 52-year-old who had been experiencing light spotting every couple of months and thought she may be in menopause. However, Kate assured her that was not the case yet due to her lab and ultrasound results. Instead, it was a cyst that was most likely causing the irregular bleeding.
Seven patients later, she met her last one of the day — and one of the most difficult for her emotionally, as she hates causing any of her patients pain. This one, a 40-year-old mother of one was in to get a Paraguard IUD insertion under ultrasound. It’s a particularly tricky procedure that requires directly entering the uterus through the cervix, and I cringed with empathy as the patient screamed out in pain. Thankfully, it only lasted a few seconds, but it took its toll, causing her to feel light headed for a few minutes afterward. Kate apologized for causing the unavoidable discomfort and brought her patient some juice and a snack bar to help combat the physical reaction.
Regardless of the times she has to perform painful procedures — or, worse yet, deliver painful news, like a miscarriage — Kate still does so with the utmost compassion and professionalism, even praying with her patients upon request.
Kate has been with Winter Park OB-GYN for the last five years. She previously worked as an emergency room nurse at Florida Hospital East Orlando.
“Choosing one thing I love about my work is very difficult,” she says. “I love connecting with women, meeting them where they are each day and helping them work through illness, promote healthy decisions and prevent disease.”
Throughout the day, I noticed the special connection she shares with her patients. She’s extremely personable and compassionate, and it translates through the women for whom she cares, who, one after another, told me how great she is.
“My experience [at UCF] aided me in providing compassionate care that meets the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of my patients on many levels,” she says.
Her patients love her for that. And, she loves her job because of her patients.
Beyond the Stethoscope Q&A
Q. What advice would you give to current UCF nursing students?
A. Take time to learn the anatomy and pathophysiology very well. This foundation helps everything else fall into place.
Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A. My husband and I love to travel! The National Park System in the United States has some of the most beautiful places in the entire world — oceans, deserts, rainforests, mountains, valleys, rock formations. I would love to work for the National Park system!
Q. What’s something you learned in the past week?
A. I learned about a new drug regimen for multiple sclerosis patients.
Q. What do you fear?
A. Clowns and spiders
Q. Last thing you Googled?
A. Guidelines for patients of advanced maternal age
Kate Hughes is a recipient of the UCF Alumni Association’s 2012 Rising Star Award. She’s been married to fellow Knight Jimmy Hughes, ’06, for nine years, and the couple has three sons, Daniel, 6, Elijah, 4, and Jonah, 2.