From the start of his career as a bedside nurse in a small community hospital to his current role as clinician lead at AvitaCare Atlanta medical center, nurse practitioner Terry Hackworth has been on the frontlines of compassionate care for more than three decades. But whether he’s caring for patients directly, supervising a team of clinicians, or mentoring the next generation of nurse practitioners, his core philosophy has remained steadfast: “I take care of my patients the way I would want someone to take care of me in the same situation,” Terry says.
It was during his role as a nurse at a busy primary care practice that offered LGBTQ+ and HIV care that Terry made a career-altering realization. “It was then that I knew I wanted to become a nurse practitioner and provide care to patients in the community I’m part of,” Terry says. “Identifying as a gay male gives me a unique perspective when it comes to understanding the needs of my patients. It can increase their comfort level and result in them more transparently sharing their health details.”
“I’m always learning from my patients.”
But while being a member of the LGBTQ+ community was a driving factor in Terry’s clinical focus, he’s committed to expanding his knowledge base every day. “Even though I’m a part of the LGBTQ+. community, I’m always learning from my patients,” Terry says. “I have a special passion for serving the transgender community, and I’ve learned so much about inclusivity, diversity, and compassionate care for these patients. This includes gaining a better understanding of their life issues, anxiety, depression, and lack of access to gender-affirming care.
“Many of my patients have encountered judgment not only by their family and friends, but also by the very people who care for them in their time of need: their healthcare providers,” Terry says. “Working one-on-one with patients and meeting them where they are builds trust. That these patients can be honest and upfront with the provider empowers them to receive the best care.”
Mentorship cultivates the next generation of providers
Mentorship has been crucial to Terry’s professional development, and he’s determined to help shape the next generation of health care providers. “As nurse practitioners, we’re always mentoring and learning from each other and other providers,” Terry says. “So many mentors have influenced my career that I can’t mention just one. They’ve helped develop me into the professional I am today.”
Currently serving as a preceptor to nursing students through the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Georgia State University, and Chamberlain University, Terry helps them meet their course objectives and personal goals. “It’s my job to pass on my experience so students have a solid knowledge base upon their entry into practice,” he says. And Terry’s guidance doesn’t always end when students receive their diplomas. “I often continue to mentor them once they’re in their own practices,” he explains.
Terry’s dedication to nursing means he’s also diligent about challenging himself professionally. He has received his AAHIVS certification from the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the nation’s leading independent organization of health care professionals dedicated to providing excellence in HIV care and prevention. Terry is studying to complete his Doctor of Nursing Practice through Augusta University and—to keep things interesting—has an MBA to boot.