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Archive Anesthesia 2019

Retired Wide Receiver Catching On in the OR

Q&A with Nate Hughes, MD, former NFLer and future anesthesiologist.

GOOD Catch

You played 5 seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
What led you to pursue a career in anesthesia when your playing days ended? I graduated with a master of science in nursing from Alcorn State University and entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie. N-F-L stands for "Not For Long," so I always believed in setting myself up for life after football. I was leaning toward entering emergency medicine until my third year in medical school, when I worked alongside an anesthesiologist and observed what really goes on in the OR. It felt like home.

Why did you decide to study nursing in college?
My intent was to gain real-world clinical experience, which would help me get into medical school. Working as a critical care nurse during football offseasons allowed me to see how different members of the medical team work together. Nursing gave me incredible opportunities to learn about anatomy, pharmacology, clinical medicine and how to communicate effectively with patients. That background has proved invaluable.

How did your NFL career prepare you for medical school?
Many people are unaware of how much preparation and studying goes into playing football. On the first day of training camp, you receive a playbook that's more than 200 pages thick and have to learn the entire thing — small details of numerous personnel packages, formations and assignments — in a day. Then, on the field, you have to adjust on the fly to what defenses show. The ability to quickly adapt to different defensive fronts reminds me of the skills needed in the OR, where everyone has to react to the patient's changing condition and know what the next course of action should be.

What did your teammates say about your "other" career?
They were very supportive and respected my dedication. When I hauled in my first career touchdown with the Jaguars, they were joking that I was the first nurse to score in the NFL. That's probably true! I miss the guys in the locker room and competing on a weekly basis, but I don't miss not having job security.

How does working in the OR compare to life in the NFL?
It's not as different as you might think. In the NFL, we wanted to win games and make a run at a championship. In the OR, we want to perform great procedures and achieve excellent outcomes. Professionals in both arenas are passionate, strong-willed individuals who believe in what they do, and how they go about doing it. Differences of opinion occur in the OR and in the locker room, but you learn to work as one unit to achieve the ultimate goal. OSM

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