Maria Hugo on Being a Nurse at Lurie Children’s

Stories in: Nursing , Leadership

Last time we spoke with Lurie Children’s Manager of Patient Care Operations in the Department of Hematology and Oncology, Maria Hugo, she told us about her journey of going from nurse to manager.

Now, we wanted to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a nurse at Lurie Children’s. So, we sat down with Maria to hear more of her nursing anecdotes. Here’s what she said!

What drew you to pediatrics?


When I started in nursing school, it was funny, my class was pretty small and we went around and about 90% of us said we wanted to be labor and delivery nurses because we thought that meant playing with babies–it didn’t, and we learned that pretty quickly. After I got my nursing assistant role at Children’s Memorial through a connection in the department, my passion for pediatrics sparked.

I had always loved babysitting and hanging out with kids, but seeing kids in this setting is what drew me to pediatrics. They are so resilient, and they go through things that I would just be complaining about constantly; they don’t always do it with a smile, nor should they, but they get through it. Seeing those really human moments of kids being kids in the hospital is just a really incredible experience.

After the nursing assistant role, I did an internship in southern Illinois at a children’s hospital down there. That solidified my feelings about the ICU, specifically, because that’s where my internship was. I knew that was the move I wanted to make when I graduated.


Tell us about one of your favorite memories at Lurie.


I had a patient, she was actually my last patient before I switched to management, she was 21 years old–she came in when she was 20 and was very, very sick with multiple organ failures and cancer. I took care of her from the beginning of September until November when I left, so her 21st birthday happened while she was still really sick–breathing tube and everything–so she couldn’t do anything.

Once she was on the mend, I told her ‘we’re going to have a 21st birthday celebration for you, it’s going to be great, we’re going to make it a club in here,’ and she thought it was the most hilarious thing. So, there was a day that her best friend was supposed to come to visit for the first time during her hospital stay. We had her friend wait outside and we kept telling her she wasn’t here yet. She kept asking where her friend was, and we kept telling her that traffic must be bad.

Meanwhile, I had an empty champagne bottle that I brought in and filled with apple juice–she was only able to drink 1oz of fluid at a time, so I had these little shot glasses–and the other nursing assistants brought in cupcakes. We all gathered around the hallway, then we went into

her room and flicked the lights on and off and held up the bottle of apple juice. Her friend was behind us, so we moved apart, she saw her friend, and they got to take “shots” together.

That’s just a good example of working in this setting with these kids who are still kids and getting to experience these life moments that they’re not experiencing because they’re in the hospital. Those are the moments that I’ll remember forever, not how tired I am or whatever else is going on in my life–you’re going to remember moments like this with these kids.


Why is Lurie a great place to work as an RN?


Well if my stories didn’t sell you already, I think it’s a combination: it’s the team atmosphere, the friendships you create, the moments of true humanity that you see, what you’re doing for your patients, what they end up doing for you, and getting the opportunity for self-reflection amidst it all. It’s also the opportunities that the hospital has; we are treated so well as nurses–we are celebrated and respected–and I think that’s a huge thing.

In this culture, nursing is truly a profession, it’s not a job, it’s a career, a calling, a vocation, and it’s true. We have a great professional governance organization, so the structure is completely run by nurses; we get to make decisions that impact what we do every day instead of someone in a room telling us what they think we should do. All of those things make Lurie Children’s an excellent place to work as a nurse.


Tell us about the team culture.


So, the team culture at Lurie Children’s obviously includes family-centered and relationship-based care, but when you really get down to it, as a nurse at the hospital, the relationships you make with everyone are the embodiment of Lurie Children’s culture. I’ve made lifelong friends in this group.

What I always tell people is that it’s kind of like police or firefighters or first responders, where you go through this shared trauma together–you’re dealing with really intensely ill children, intense situations, families, and suffering, and you’re putting yourself into that willingly–so you need a good team around you to keep you motivated and going forward. That’s the culture at Lurie Children’s: supporting each other while supporting these patients and families during treatment.


Tell us about a time you went above and beyond to care for a patient or teammate.


It wasn’t just me, it was our whole team. One of our good friends and coworkers, her mom was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer right after she had her first baby. So, I sent out an email and asked everyone pitch in money to get her a massage or something fun to do because she’s taking care of sick kids at work, a new child, and her mom, and that’s just so much to do. We raised over a thousand dollars and went shopping and bought her Lululemon pants, restaurant gift cards for her and her husband, and just this huge number of gifts and showed up and surprised her. She’s always held onto that moment.

We talk about the family we become within our units. Every unit is a family, and that was just an example of everyone not even thinking twice and pitching in to help out a teammate. It’s just a really great culture and that type of attitude is hospital-wide, it’s a culture of supporting each other, encouraging each other, celebrating success with each other, mourning the losses together, and getting excited about the kids that make it out and survive with positive outcomes.


So, are you ready to be part of the Lurie Children’s family? Apply to a nursing role today!