Photo: Lee Pellegrini

Cara Hughes | Connell School of Nursing

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

Notable Achievements/Activities: 2020 Ever to Excel–Paul Chebator and Mer Zovoko Award winner; Appalachia Volunteers (three years); leader, Kairos and Connell School SCRUBS retreats; member, Sigma Theta Tau international honor society of nursing, BC chapter; volunteer, Brigham and Women’s Hospital NICU.

Post-Graduation Plans: She will take the NCLEX licensure exam this summer and wants to work as an ICU/critical care nurse in a Boston-area hospital.

Service has been a significant part of Hughes’ identity at BC, whether doing hands-on work at housing sites in Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia as an Appa Volunteer or guiding classmates through retreats offered by the Connell School of Nursing or Campus Ministry. The daughter of a Connell School graduate, Hughes has always wanted to do something that helped people—and nursing, she says, is helping people in their most vulnerable moments.

 What has it been like to be a nursing student during a pandemic?

I worked as a nursing assistant over the summer [at North Shore Medical Center] on a COVID floor. I always got comments like “I don’t understand how do you do this” or “How is this not so depressing for you?” But what I always come back to is the lives of my patients and how lucky I am to be able to serve them in these most vulnerable moments. When I think of that, “depressing” is the last word I would use to describe it. It’s a lot more hopeful than everyone initially thinks.

What has been your favorite class? Favorite clinical?

Praying our Stories with [Welles Crowther Director of Volunteer and Service Learning Center] Dan Ponsetto was probably my favorite class. We talked about love, kindness, relationships, and how God plays into that. It really supplemented my nursing education. When people think of nursing, they think of science and medications, but there is this huge patient-centered, compassionate side of nursing that is arguably more important. I found that Dan’s class did a really good job of reminding me of that piece of what I’m doing.

I did my senior synthesis at the neuro ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital. It has radically changed my nursing skills and nursing comprehension. My baseline level of compassion has been heightened by this critical care setting. The brain is so fascinating and the neurological side of nursing is something I want to pursue. My preceptor, Grace Eckels, stopped at nothing to get whatever educational opportunities she could on the floor with me.

Who have been mentors for you?

All of my clinical instructors have been so enthusiastic about my education. [Clinical Associate Professor] Luanne Nugent is easily one of the warmest people I’ve met at BC. Her door has always been open and her head is always filled with all these ideas to push me further. She’s never had a shortage of uplifting words. She’s been an inspiring and motivational presence for me. [Connell School Assistant Director of Student Services] Brandon Huggon has been one of the most supportive conversation partners I’ve had. He is a rock for so many people here at CSON.

What was your most memorable moment during your time at BC?

One of my most memorable moments would be when I led the Kairos retreat. Kairos helped me understand that my retreatants were just as influential on me and they taught me about God’s presence in our lives. That was something I didn’t expect. Kairos does an amazing and very intentional job of shining a light on the importance of each person. It is always nice to be reminded that you are loved and appreciated across this campus. That retreat and formation are etched in my brain forever.

What’s been the Boston College difference for you?

BC does such a good job with the whole balance in their curriculum, where I was able to get a great nursing education but also supplement it with a lot of classes surrounding Jesuit ideals. BC has always highlighted that your personal story is what defines you and that it’s of infinite value. Everyone has a different story and all it requires is for you to give that listening ear and be present to them. Learning how to uplift these stories so that everyone on campus feels loved and recognized is something that I don’t think any other school could have done the way BC did.

Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | 2021

Return to Seniors to Remember 2021 home page