Air Evac Flight Nurse Joins Elite Company of Highly Certified Practitioners

May 5, 2020

Mike Hughes commitment to caring for patients has led him to achieve a unique distinction. His patients are the benefactors of his unique background and experience. 

When the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing told Air Evac’s Mike Hughes he was one of 33 nurses in the world with all five of the Board’s prestigious certifications, he was as surprised as anyone. Joining that elite company had never been a goal. To Mike, the rare achievement was merely a byproduct of his pursuit of excellence in service to his patients and his community. 

The pursuit began five years ago. Mike had already seen a lot as a flight nurse for Air Evac Lifeteam’s Wetzel County, WV, operation, and experience is often the best teacher. But not the only one. His experiences revealed to him a desire for a deeper understanding of his profession and the physiology underpinning many of the clinical cases he saw every day. If he knew more, he could do more for his patients.

“Knowledge is power,” said Hughes. “But it’s the application of that broader knowledge that makes a difference to your patients. You have to be self-motivated. You have to be willing to put in the time regardless of other commitments in your life. In the end, whatever your motivation, it’s the people you serve who benefit the most.”

Finding the time can be a barrier for many, to be sure. But don’t tell that to Mike. In addition to his full-time role as a flight nurse for Air Evac, he works in the Emergency Department at Reynolds Memorial Hospital, volunteers with two Fire Departments, is an EMS instructor, provides sports medicine coverage for his two sons Wesley (13) and Ryan’s (11) football teams and operates a working farm with his wife of 17 years, Teresa, and her family.

“I dedicate an additional 60-hours per month that is just education-related outside of the pursuit of Board Certifications,” said Hughes. That includes training, policy review, re-certifications and evidence based journal readings. For the five Board certifications, over the past five years, I’ve read and reviewed approximately 20 text books and spent hundreds of hours really trying to understand the material as best I can. Passing the tests is just the beginning. You have to have that information at-the-ready to employ in the field.”
Mike’s passion for learning manifested years ago. He holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Athletic Training and minored in Wellness. Realizing he wanted to apply his knowledge more broadly, he went back to school and earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing. He hadn’t served as a flight nurse for long before he saw areas where he could improve his level of care.

“I felt like there was so much more I could learn and do,” said Hughes. “Through the Board, the opportunities were there to expand the scope of care I was capable of providing. Over the last few years, I received my board certifications in Trauma, Emergency and Transport Nursing, then the industry’s gold-star Flight Nurse Certification. I still saw holes in my knowledge base, especially in pediatrics , so I obtained that certification as well.”

After receiving that fifth certification, Mike became one of group of practitioners that numbers only 33 worldwide. But accolades, while not his goal, are nothing new. He’s been a captain of state and national championship-winning team, Tri-County Medics, at the ESCAPE EMS Conference Stars of Life Championships, Professional of the Year Nominee in Wetzel County and he was featured as a Hometown Hero by local news affiliate WTRF-7. 

One might reasonably expect that Mike has reached a threshold of education and achievement that satisfies his hunger for learning. One would be wrong. He continues to see opportunities to broaden his skill set and bring more to the community he serves.

“Understanding the physiology of strokes and the specialized care stroke victims require, might be a logical next step,” said Mike. “In the wake of COVID-19 there is a Communicable Diseases certification I might look into, and I anticipate other new trainings to stem from the pandemic based on what we’re learning about how viruses can effect different communities in different ways—and what that means to how we treat patients and protect ourselves as frontline practitioners. There is always more to learn.”

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