DNP student Ben Hughes manages school, full-time job amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Posted: November 3, 2021

Ben Hughes, BSN, RN, is one of a handful of UK HealthCare professionals who manages a full-time job and family responsibilities while also pursuing his DNP Executive Leadership degree at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing.

He has been able to excel at his job and schoolwork in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic put extreme pressure on those in the medical field—and especially those in care environments with a high volume of coronavirus patients.

“I’m not sure how I’ve managed to juggle it all, but I can tell you that the College has been very flexible, and even the dean has reached out to see how I was doing and if she could do anything to help support me,” says Hughes, a 25-year health care veteran who is director of the Medical Intensive Care Units and Medicine Service Line at UK HealthCare.

During the past year, Hughes was responsible for overseeing all inpatient COVID-19 operations, and he led his team through challenges with personal protection equipment, pandemic patient care and new hospital regulations. His work life was chaotic, but he was still able to show up for classes and get his scholarly reading done, in large part thanks to weekends (his three teens sleep late so he can get schoolwork done) and professors who understand the demands of his job.

“The College of Nursing and UK HealthCare are like one big happy family,” says Hughes. “My direct administrator as well as her administrator have also gone through the DNP program, so they understand the commitment, and both are highly supportive.”

Hughes chose the MSN-DNP Executive Leadership program because he wants to be an even better nurse leader. When communicating with his team at UK HealthCare, he focuses on listening to their concerns and finding solutions. When he hits a wall with work or school, he seeks advice from other leaders within the organization.

UK HealthCare sets a high bar for patient care, and so the medical center encourages high performers such as Hughes to seek advanced degrees. The medical center pays for most of Hughes’ educational costs. “The hope is that if the institution invests in a person, that investment goes back into the institution to improve patient outcomes,” says Hughes. “I have only good things to say about the DNP program and how it’s helped me to reach my next career goal.”

Learn more about the UK College of Nursing's DNP program.  

This story was written for and appeared in the UK College of Nursing's Fall 2021 edition of Engagement magazine.