Meet the Chamberlain Campus President: Trish Hughes, Arlington

trish hughes

Before the first grade, Patricia “Trish” Hughes, EdD, MSN, MBA, CRNP, president of Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Arlington campus, already knew what life had in store for her. 

“My mother always says that instead of coming out screaming at birth, I came out yelling, ‘I want to be a nurse!” she said. “As a young child, I can remember wanting a nurse’s kit for Christmas so desperately. I just had this calling and always knew it was something I wanted to do.”

Throughout her many years in the nursing profession, Hughes has kept that same passion for her career—an enthusiasm she hopes to further instill in her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program students. She shares more of her journey below:

What path did you take to become a nurse?

I never knew any nurses – in fact, I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college. I wanted to make sure that I was preparing myself to be accepted to college for nursing, but I knew so little about how you become a nurse. My mother is a strong woman and she knew this was something I really had my heart set on. She encouraged me and helped me find ways to follow that path and dream.

When I was 10 years old, I asked her what it took to become a nurse. She didn’t know, but suggested that I write to Ohio State University and ask them what I needed to do. On a piece of lined school paper, in my neatest elementary-school writing, I wrote, “Dear Sir or Madam, I want to grow up to be a nurse, but I don’t know how to do it. Could you send me information?”

They sent me everything. It was from them that I learned that the military had a scholarship program. They sent me a sample curriculum plan, the catalog and more. At the time, I was so impressed. I used that to guide my course selections and my extracurricular activities as I prepared for college.

Where has your career taken you?

I’ve been on the clinical side of nursing, as well as in education, business operations and research. I’ve really had it all and have enjoyed the diversity of all that I’ve been able to do.

When I went to college, I did indeed apply for the Army nurse scholarship program. Upon my graduation, one of my assignments was in remote Korea. It was my first experience with ambulatory care and I ended up loving it. When I came back to the states, I was the head nurse for a critical care unit when I was approached to teach a course at a local community college. That was where I found out how much I also loved to teach nursing.

My husband was active-duty in the military for 30 years, so I traveled to a variety of places and I didn’t always have my dream job. Sometimes, I created my own job. I’ve been a program director, I have been an emergency room charge nurse, I’ve been on an orthopedics unit and a transplants unit, I’ve taught at a variety of universities across the United States. I’m a nurse practitioner, so I’ve done private practice as well. Prior to Chamberlain, I was with MinuteClinic and opened the Maryland beltway market – one of the first they had outside of the home territory. I grew up in that organization and became the vice president for clinical quality.

Is there a special moment in your nursing career that sticks out?

While I was in Korea, I was the only health care provider for two orphanages. One in particular was so very poor—I saw a lot of malnutrition in the children. During my visits, I would get about a cup of water in a little basin and a piece of soap that was smaller than my thumbnail. That’s what I had to use over and over again to wash my hands in between seeing children.

I went to visit them one Christmas Eve. It was freezing cold, and I was bundled up in a hat and scarf and all I could think was, “Please, no more kids. I’m so cold, I just want to go home.” The director of the orphanage was the only person who spoke any English and when I had finished seeing all the children, she asked me to wait and sat me down in the one folding chair they had.

The next thing I knew, the children brought me a fruit, which was a cross between a pear and an apple. It was so huge, it could have fed three children. After they brought me this gift, they lined up and sang three verses of “Silent Night” to me in English.

You don’t often realize the difference you make in people’s lives or how you’ve touched them. They probably thought they had nothing to give me, but what they really gave me was the gift of their hearts, and I have never, ever forgotten that.

You’ve earned several degrees. What inspired you to keep going with your education?

First and foremost, I love learning. I’ve already started to think about what my next degree will be. Earlier in my career, you could teach nursing with a baccalaureate degree but a master’s was preferred. I saw the handwriting on the wall, and I went back to school. Then the doctorate became preferred, so I went back again because I wanted to stay in teaching.

When my husband retired, I ended up in a position as a disease management program director and I was responsible for a $40 million dollar budget. I took an accounting course because I wanted to manage that budget well, be smarter and talk to the chief financial officer on his level. Once I had finished, I took another course—and eventually got my MBA.  As it turned out, I changed jobs and was taking my marketing class right as we were opening a market at MinuteClinic. My experience informed my education and my education informed my experience. It doesn’t get any better than that.

How did you manage school, as well as work and family? 

I was very lucky in my baccalaureate program— I wasn’t married and I was on scholarships so I never really worried about money. All I had to do was study. It was the same thing in my Master’s program, because I had veteran’s benefits that more than paid for my education.

When I was doing my doctoral work, I had a 2 ½ year old child and was working full-time, as well as keeping up with my studies and beginning to write my dissertation. My husband was also often called out into the field, so I would act as a temporary single mom.

Organization is the absolute key. You can’t let things slide or put them off until tomorrow. You never know if you’ll have those precious moments to study and you need to take them when you can. I was lucky that my daughter had a routine where she slept for two hours for a nap every afternoon without fail. I knew that was when I needed to get my school work done, because it was the only time I would have, along with a few late nights.

What issues in the nursing world do you feel most strongly about? 

I’m a nurse practitioner, so more autonomous practice for advanced practice nurses is something I feel strongly about. I’m also very passionate about nursing education. There’s no question that nursing education needs to change to meet the demands of society, from embedding more technology in our curriculum to putting an increased focus on interprofessional education. We also need to hone business acumen in nurses. I’m a member of the curriculum steering committee at Chamberlain , and I’m excited to play a role in guiding Chamberlain to be on the leading edge of nursing education of the future.

What drew you to your position at Chamberlain?

In my role, I get to be a high-quality nurse, I get to do business operations and, of course, have a hand in the academic side. It pulls the three things I love the most into the same job. Again, it doesn’t get any better than that.

What do you enjoy outside of nursing? 

I’m an avid reader, I love Sudoku and Ken-Ken and I’m a very competitive bridge player. I like gourmet cooking—and I like eating even better. I love quiet time with my dog, an 85-pound Labrador retriever, and getting some exercise through our walks. I also love to travel, particularly to places I’ve never been before, but that list is getting smaller and smaller.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

The trip I enjoyed most for both personal and historical reasons was to Vietnam. I was a war orphan, as my father was killed in Vietnam. I never, ever envisioned myself going there. I hated Vietnam and hated the thought of it. Many decades passed, and I decided to go.

It is a beautiful country. The people there are warm and friendly, and when you listen to their stories, they were as affected by the political decisions of their country as we were. The food was amazing, their history was extremely complex and I love learning about different cultures. I actually walked in places my dad had been before he’d been killed. Before I went, I had such a discontent somewhere in my soul, and when I left Vietnam, I was able to come to some peace with what happened. 

What’s an interesting fact about yourself?

I’ll give you a few. I was born in France, and lived there for the first couple years of my life. Until recently, I was also a private pilot.  I have one daughter, who is an actress in Los Angeles.

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