Intensive Caregiver For More Than Three Decades

December 03, 2017

She was part of IU Health when there were pulmonary and renal units; two distinct baby units; and through a merge of cardiac medical care. Stephanie Hughes has been part of the history that built IU Health.

She’s seen changes in management. She’s observed advances in technology. And she’s cared for hundreds of patients.

“I think one of the biggest changes has been in patient care,” said Hughes, 55, who was born in the former William H. Coleman Hospital for Women, obtained her nursing degree from IUPUI, and has worked at IU Health ever since. “When I was a student, we didn’t work with the patients as early, but now it’s more hands on.”

One of the best parts of her job is helping new nurses acclimate to the hospital setting. An active member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Hughes says she loves observing new nurses – many who look up to her like a mom – grow, develop and learn.

“I’ve seen nurses come in who are shy and meek and after the phase we call ‘reality nursing’ they develop so much confidence and their big ICU voice. We grow with them,” said Hughes, who works in MICU at University Hospital. “It’s a joy to see new nurses grow into competent ICU nurses. We give them the good solid base. We are passionate about helping them become great nurses.”

Hughes doesn’t hold back teaching new nurses all elements of patient care that can’t be learned in a textbook – like the reality of death.

“We get a lot of very sick patients and we work as a family to get through tough times,” said Hughes. “There are many times when we know it is near the end. It’s important to make them as comfortable as possible and work at transitioning them – bringing in the support of a social worker and chaplain and know how to read the family. It’s never easy. It never gets easier.”

She knows what it means to have new nurses come into a room of a dying patient – those eyes that are so fresh.

“I pull them right into what I’m doing and don’t let them sit back. I try to teach as I go – how to read the signs of family members and I also try to teach them the unexpected things. I had a good teacher and I want to pay that forward to be a good teacher to others. “

More about Hughes:

  • She refreshes her soul by traveling. Some of her favorite trips have been to China, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Turkey, and Peru.
  • At the age of 18 she started working security at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – an activity that she enjoyed sharing with her dad until he died in 2004.
  • About becoming a nurse: “As a kid, if someone got hurt on the playground I was there to fix them up. As I’ve gotten older, there have been many times I’ve stopped to help people at accident scenes and stabilize them until emergency crews arrived. I love everything about nursing.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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