Kate Hugo admits that nursing was never on her radar as a potential career until she became a ski patroller at Beaver Creek Resort.
“I went to college at Northeastern University in Boston with plans to become an English teacher,” says Kate, who is originally from New Hampshire. After graduation, a close friend planned a trip to Colorado to check out graduate schools and Kate tagged along. Before long, she was planning a move of her own to the Rocky Mountains.
From ski patrolling to nursing school
A lifelong skier, Kate joined Beaver Creek Resort as a ski patroller in 2002 and stayed for several years—with a brief break during which she taught middle school. Her experience on the mountain is what sparked her interest in nursing. “I really liked the medical aspect of ski patrolling,” she says. “It connects science and physiology to real, tangible situations with skiers on the mountain.” Following in the footsteps of a few coworkers, she took nursing school prerequisite classes at Colorado Mountain College. In 2004, she moved to Denver to start a BSN program at Regis University.
A new career
When Kate graduated with the BSN in 2009, she started her career at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge in the internal medicine unit. She transitioned to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood in 2011, working on the trauma, surgical, oncology unit. But she and her husband—whom she met while ski patrolling—are mountain lovers at heart, and Kate was commuting from Winter Park where they lived. “I was ready for something different and eager to live and work in my community,” she says. The couple moved to Carbondale, Colorado, in 2013 and Kate landed a position in the acute care and surgical services area of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
Time for a master’s degree
Seven years into her nursing career, Kate felt the time was right to further her education. “I had enough experience that I knew I could put an MSN into the professional context,” she says. “I was ready for a new challenge in my career.” She planned to return to Regis University, which offered an executive MSN program on weekends, and was prepared to continue to work full time. However, in summer 2015, Kate was honored with a Health Care Stars Award, a statewide healthcare professional awards recognition program sponsored by American Sentinel University and the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA). At the awards banquet, Kate received a surprise that totally changed her plans.
A full scholarship
American Sentinel had entered the 12 recipients of the Health Care Stars Award into a drawing for a full-tuition scholarship and Kate was the lucky winner. “It was an amazing opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up,” she says. “I felt like it was the universe steering me in a direction. I researched the university and liked the eight-week courses, the curriculum, and everything I saw.” Kate enrolled at American Sentinel in June 2016.
Growing as a nurse
Kate is pursuing the MSN, nursing management and organizational leadership track because of her involvement in shared governance at Valley View Hospital. “I’ve assumed a leadership role with that and it’s been the best experience of my professional career,” she says. “It really lends itself to the organizational leadership track. We talk a lot about our obligations as nurses to the profession as a whole.”
Now five classes into her MSN program, Kate says she has already seen the benefits that the program will have on her practice and career. “I want this MSN so I can be a better nurse,” she says. “I think I’ll be better able to understand changes in healthcare going forward. For my long-term career, it’s important to stay current and keep up with the profession. For all those reasons, pursuing the MSN is the right thing to do.”
Update: Kate graduated with her MSN in January 2019.
Inspired by Kate’s story? An MSN program can be your passport to a specialty nursing field, like nursing management and organizational leadership, nursing education, informatics, or infection control. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of these nursing fields. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.